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Children's Health

My 13-year-old has pneumonia

08/31/2009

Question:

My 13-year-old son was diagnosed today with pneumonia (I don`t know what kind) and prescribed the antibiotic Azithromycin. His illness began with a fever, chills, headache and occasional dizziness 7 days ago. I took him to the pediatrician two days later and was told it`s a viral illness. After four days of worsening symptoms (including a persistent cough), I took him back to the doctor today. We were sent for a chest x-ray and the diagnosis was made. The pediatrician said he expects my son to make a full recovery.

A friend told me tonight that contracting pneumonia as a youngster predisposes a person to recurrent bouts of it as he/she gets older. Is that true, and if so, how can my son protect himself from being especially vulnerable in the future?

Answer:

For the vast majority of patients, having pneumonia once does not make one prone to having it repeatedly.  

Repetitive pneumonia can, of course, occur.  There are rare cases in which the initial pneumonia causes some lingering damage that is then prone to infection. Also, rarely, a patient has an underlying immune problem that makes him/her prone to pneumonia - and contributed to the first episode.  The most common reason I find in my practice for children with "recurrent pneumonia" is that they actually have asthma.  (An infection, which contributes the fever, triggers an asthma flare, which contributes the chest symptoms.)

The best way to prevent pneumonia is to be careful about good hand washing.  Also, keep up to date on immunizations - including influenza vaccines.

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Response by:

Elizabeth D Allen, MD Elizabeth D Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University