Tips for parents: 5 early signs of Pneumonia in infants

For parents, it is often difficult to comprehend and manage the health concerns their newborn faces. There are two key factors to help to deal with newborn illnesses; the primary factor is to understand the problem through knowledge and the second is staying calm and composed during the ordeal. While it is no doubt difficult to understand the problem and put corrective steps to practice during this phase, it is nevertheless the best way forward.


A relatively common issue in newborns is the incidence of Pneumonia. This occurs when bacterial infection in one or both the lungs, causes inflammation; the air sacks are filled with fluid, making it difficult to breathe.

It may present in different ways and show different signs at different times. Keeping yourself alert, and having adequate knowledge, will help you figure out the possibilities and risks. However, if these symptoms arise, it is wise to consult your doctor immediately.

Here are some of the signs of pneumonia in newborn babies to help prevent the illness from escalating:

  • An unpleasant fever: Fever in a newborn may develop for various reasons. Fevers generally pass on once the germs are fought off, strengthening their immunity overtime. Persistent fever, fever not relieved by medicines, high grade fever, fever making baby very dull or lethargic are symptoms which indicates bad infection or infection that must get a Paediatrician’s immediate attention.
  • Fast Breathing accompanied with abnormal sounds like wheezing: It is common for a baby to have different rhythms of breathing throughout the day. Pneumonia is the disease of the lung. So As the Pneumonia progresses, child will start breathing faster. Some babies may develop wheezing (high-pitched whistling sound made while you breathe) cold weather can be one of the causes. If pneumonia progresses, breathing of babies or children can become labored also. However, if wheezy breathing is consistent and does not go away within a few hours, it is worth seeing a doctor.It is also important to keep a watch out for flaring nostrils as this could mean that the Lungs are deeply impacted.
  • Short, rapid and shallow breathing: Due to the fluid trapped in the Lungs, it becomes difficult to breathe. Shallow breathing is a bad sign in smaller children; mostly it is accompanied by a very dull baby or a child. It’s a medical emergency. Rush to an ER.
  • Reluctance to feed:Smaller infants or children become very fussy and non-cooperative when it comes to feeding during any acute infection. But if they drink less, which make them prone to develop dehydration and increase their weakness. However, as a parent it is important to keep a track on the feeding schedule even if your baby is asleep. If baby is not eating and not drinking or becomes lethargic or does not pass urine or passes dark urine is a concern where emergency help of pediatrician should be sought for and baby may need hospitalization during any acute febrile illness.
  • Abdomen retractions: Keep a close watch on your baby’s torso where the rib cage and abdomen meet. If there is a sucking motion when he breathes, also known as retraction, this could mean that your baby has a difficulty in breathing. These babies require hospitalization.

Parents must be aware that there is no sure way that a cold could be followed by Pneumonia. However, taking a few steps can minimize the risk. They are as following.

  1. Ensure there is sufficient liquid intake like coconut water, ORS
  2. Give medicine to reduce discomfort like prescribed fever medicines and cough syrups
  3. Keep a watch on urine color
  4. Lesser chances of hospitalization with smaller babies, as early interventions can improve outcomes

(Writer is Dr Jesal Sheth, Senior Consultant, Pediatric & Neonatal Intensivist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund. Views expressed are personal opinion.)


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