Pneumonia - children - discharge

Your child has pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs. In the hospital, the doctors and nurses helped your child breathe better. They also gave your child medicine to help get rid of the germs that caused the pneumonia. And they made sure your child got enough liquids.

What to Expect at Home

Most children will still have some symptoms of pneumonia after they leave the hospital.

  • Your child’s coughing will slowly get better over 7 to 14 days.
  • Your child’s sleeping and eating may take up to a week to return to normal.
  • You may need to take time off work to care for your child.

Home Care

Breathing warm, moist (wet) air helps loosen the sticky mucus that may be choking your child. These things may help:

  • Place a warm, wet washcloth loosely over your child's nose and mouth.
  • Fill a humidifier with warm water and have your child breathe in the warm mist.

Do not use steam vaporizers because they can cause burns.

Tap your child’s chest gently a few times a day as they lay with their head lower than their chest. This can help bring up mucus from the lungs.

Make sure everyone washes their hands with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand cleaner before they touch your child. Try to keep other children away from your child.

DO NOT allow anyone to smoke in the house, the car, or anywhere near your child.

Ask your doctor about shots for your child to prevent other infections.

  • A flu shot
  • A pneumonia vaccine

Eating and Drinking

Make sure your child drinks enough:

  • Offer breast milk or formula if your child is younger than 12 months.
  • Offer whole milk if your child is older than 12 months.

These drinks may help relax the airway and loosen the mucus: Warm tea, lemonade, apple juice, or chicken broth for children over age 1.

Eating or drinking may make your child tired. Offer small amounts, but more often than usual.

If your child throws up because of coughing, wait a few minutes and try to feed your child again.


Antibiotics help most children with pneumonia get better.

  • Your doctor may tell you to give antibiotics to your child.
  • Don't miss any doses.
  • Finish all the medicine, even if your child starts to feel better.

DO NOT give your child cough medicine or cold medicine unless your doctor says it is okay. Your child’s coughing helps them get rid of mucus from their lungs.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you if it is okay to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or pain. If these medicines are okay to use, your doctor will tell you how often to give them to your child.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor if:

  • Your child's is a having a hard time breathing.
  • Your child’s chest muscles are pulling in with each breath.
  • Your child is breathing faster than 50 to 60 breaths per minute (when not crying).
  • Your child is making a grunting noise.
  • Your child is sitting with shoulders hunched over.
  • Your child’s skin, nails, gums, or lips are a bluish or grayish color.
  • The area around your child’s eyes is a bluish or grayish color.
  • Your child is very, very tired.
  • Your child is not moving around very much.
  • Your child has a limp or floppy body.
  • Your child’s nostrils are flaring out when they are breathing.
  • Your child loses their appetite.
  • Your child is irritable.
  • Your child has trouble sleeping.


Pavia M, Bianco A, Nobile CG, Marinelli P, Angelillo IF. Efficacy of pneumococcal vaccination in children younger than 24 months: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):e1103-10. PubMed PMID: 19482744.

Recommended childhood and adolescent immunization schedules—United States, 2010. Committee on Infectious Diseases. Pediatrics 2010;125:195-196.

Sectish T, Prober CG. Pneumonia. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 397.

van der Poll T, Opal SM. Pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention of pneumococcal pneumonia. Lancet. 2009 Oct 31;374(9700):1543-56. Review. PubMed PMID: 19880020.

Update Date: 4/26/2012

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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