What are the treatments for pneumonia in children?

The treatment for pneumonia will depend on whether doctors think it is caused by bacteria or a virus. Many children can be cared for at home, but some may need to be treated in hospital.

Protect your child from measles

Measles can lead to pneumonia. This happens in up to 1 in 20 children. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) is safe and can protect your child from measles. 

Your child will be invited to get the first dose of the MMR vaccine when they are one year old and the second when they are three years and four months old. If your child has missed either of their MMR vaccines, they can get them at any age. 

The NHS has more information about MMR vaccines.

What treatment will my child need?

Your child will be given antibiotics to treat their pneumonia if doctors suspect it’s caused by bacteria. It’s not always easy to tell if pneumonia is caused by bacteria or a virus. Sometimes doctors may decide to give antibiotics if they can’t be sure of the cause.

If it’s likely that your child has bacterial pneumonia, they will be given antibiotics in liquid or tablet form to fight the bacteria. Your child’s symptoms will usually improve within the first 48 hours - but they’ll probably continue to cough for longer.

It’s important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if your child seems better. If they don’t finish the whole course, the bacteria may not have been treated fully. This means that bacteria can become resistant to the antibiotics, making it harder to treat the pneumonia.

If your child’s pneumonia is caused by a virus then antibiotics won’t work. Usually, symptom management and rest are all that are needed for treating viral pneumonia.

Can I look after my child at home?

Many children with pneumonia can be looked after at home. If you’re looking after your child at home, make sure:

  • they get enough rest
  • they stay hydrated -give them small amounts to drink regularly
  • they are going to the toilet as normal - this is a sign that they’re hydrated
  • they take children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen if their chest or tummy hurts - remember that cough medicine doesn’t help with pneumonia
  • you or others don’t smoke around your child
  • you do not overdress or underdress them to try and help their temperature. The NHS has more information on how you should look after a child with a high fever.

You can ask your child’s doctor for more information on how to look after your child at home. Speak to them if your child’s condition gets worse too.

If your child has another lung condition

If your child has another lung condition, like asthma, it’s important that they continue to take any regular medication to keep it under control. Speak to your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about their condition getting worse.

Will my child need to go to hospital?

Your doctor will assess if your child should be looked after in hospital based on their symptoms and other factors, including their age. Babies under six months old are more likely to be admitted to hospital.

Your doctor will consider if your child:

  • has difficulty breathing
  • is dehydrated because they won’t feed or drink
  • can’t take antibiotics through their mouth
  • is breathing very fast
  • has low oxygen levels in their blood
  • is not responding to the prescribed antibiotics (for example, if they still have a fever after two days of antibiotic treatment)
  • has another lung, heart, or immune deficiency condition.

If your child does need to be treated in hospital, they may be given:

  • antibiotics through a drip
  • fluids through a drip if they’re dehydrated
  • oxygen if their blood oxygen levels are low.

How long will it take my child to recover?

It usually takes one or two weeks to recover. Viral pneumonia may take longer than this. Most children will have recovered after three or four weeks.

Can pneumonia be prevented?

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the risk of your child developing pneumonia.


The pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) is a vaccination to protect children against bacterial pneumonia caused by streptococcus pneumoniae. All babies are offered the PCV vaccine as part of their childhood vaccination programme. Your child may also be offered the vaccine when they’re older if they have a long-term health condition. The NHS has more on who can get the PCV vaccine.

Your child should get the PCV vaccination for free on the NHS. Babies are offered two doses of the vaccine. The first is at 12 weeks old and the second is at one year of age.

Your child should also have a yearly flu vaccination from the age of two until 11 or older. This will reduce the risk of them developing pneumonia as a complication of the flu.

Remember to keep your child up to date with all their vaccinations, including the coronavirus vaccine.

Avoid infection

Avoid people who have signs of a respiratory infection such as a cough, colds, coronavirus, or flu.

Teach your child to use a tissue when coughing and sneezing and throw away used tissues immediately. They should also wash their hands regularly too.

Do not smoke, or let others smoke, around your child

Breathing in passive smoke can make your child more likely to pick up an infection and can make existing infections worse. We have more information about how passive smoking and air pollution can affect your child’s lungs.

More help and support

You can call our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (9am - 5pm; Mon - Fri) to talk to our clinical team for support if your child has pneumonia.

You may also benefit from joining our Parent and Carer Support Network which provides support and a space for parents and carers of children with lung conditions to come together.

We have more information you may find useful:

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