This infection may be caused by bacteria Overview of Bacteria Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms. They are among the earliest known life forms on earth. There are thousands of different kinds of bacteria, and they live in every conceivable... read more , viruses Overview of Viral Infections A virus is composed of nucleic acid, either DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protein coat. It requires a living cell in which to multiply. A viral infection can lead to a spectrum of symptoms from... read more , or fungi Overview of Fungal Infections Fungi are neither plants nor animals. They were once thought to be plants but are now classified as their own kingdom. Some fungi cause infections in people. Because fungal spores are often... read more .
Newborns have various symptoms depending on how soon after birth they are infected.
The diagnosis is based on a chest x-ray and the results of blood tests.
Antibiotics are given to treat the infection.
(See also Overview of Infections in Newborns Overview of Infections in Newborns Infections occur at all ages but are a great cause for concern in newborns because newborns, especially preterm ones, have an underdeveloped immune system and are more susceptible to infection... read more and Overview of Pneumonia Overview of Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection of the small air sacs of the lungs (alveoli) and the tissues around them. Pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death worldwide. Often, pneumonia is the final... read more in adults.)
Pneumonia is the most common serious bacterial infection in newborns after sepsis Sepsis in Newborns Sepsis is a serious bodywide reaction to infection spread through the blood. Newborns with sepsis appear generally ill—they are listless, do not feed well, often have a gray color, and may have... read more and is classified as
Early-onset pneumonia: Begins at or within hours of birth
Late-onset pneumonia: Begins after 7 days of age
Late-onset pneumonia most commonly occurs in newborns in neonatal intensive care units Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) Problems in newborns may develop Before birth while the fetus is growing During labor and delivery After birth About 9% of newborns need special care after birth due to prematurity, problems... read more (NICUs) who need a breathing tube (endotracheal intubation—see Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more ) for lung problems. Having a breathing tube increases the risk of pneumonia.
Pneumonia may be caused by various organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, that get into the lungs. Newborns become infected after passing through the mother's birth canal or after coming into contact with organisms in the NICU or nursery.
Symptoms of Pneumonia in Newborns
Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia vary depending on when the child is infected.
Newborns who have early-onset pneumonia have symptoms similar to symptoms of sepsis in newborns Symptoms Sepsis is a serious bodywide reaction to infection spread through the blood. Newborns with sepsis appear generally ill—they are listless, do not feed well, often have a gray color, and may have... read more , including appearing listless and not feeding well.
Newborns who have late-onset pneumonia develop unexplained breathing problems and may need extra oxygen or more breathing support. The amount of sputum (thick or discolored mucus) increases and changes (for example, becomes thicker and brown). Infants may be very ill and have an unstable temperature.
Diagnosis of Pneumonia in Newborns
To diagnose pneumonia, doctors do a chest x-ray. They do blood tests to look for bacteria in the blood. Because infants who have pneumonia may have low levels of oxygen in their blood, doctors measure levels of oxygen in the blood by placing a sensor on a finger or an earlobe. This test is called pulse oximetry Pulse oximetry Both arterial blood gas testing and pulse oximetry measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, which helps determine how well the lungs are functioning. Arterial blood gas tests are invasive... read more . Doctors may also obtain a sample of sputum and test it to look for bacteria.
Because pneumonia caused by bacteria may spread, doctors may test newborns for sepsis, which includes a spinal tap (see diagnosis of sepsis Diagnosis Sepsis is a serious bodywide reaction to infection spread through the blood. Newborns with sepsis appear generally ill—they are listless, do not feed well, often have a gray color, and may have... read more ).
Prevention of Pneumonia in Newborns
Late-onset pneumonia can often be prevented by limiting the amount of time newborns have a breathing tube. Handwashing, using gloves, and decontaminating surfaces may also help prevent late-onset pneumonia.
Treatment of Pneumonia in Newborns
Antibiotics by vein (intravenously)
Sometimes a ventilator or other treatments
To treat pneumonia in newborns, doctors give intravenous antibiotics. Once they identify the specific organism, they may adjust the type of antibiotic.
In addition to antibiotic therapy, other treatments may be needed, such as use of a machine that helps air get in and out of the lungs (ventilator Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more ), intravenous fluids, blood and plasma transfusions, and drugs that support blood pressure and circulation.