Pneumonia in children can be a very serious disease that causes a persistent cough, fever and a risk of complications such as breathing difficulties and blood poisoning. Children are at higher risk of developing pneumonia than adults and are also more likely to experience complications if they are infected. It is therefore important to be aware of the signs of pneumonia in children and to do what you can to prevent it. Practicing good hygiene is the best way to avoid any kind of childhood infection, but there are also vaccines that can reduce the risk of pneumonia.
Childhood Pneumonia Vaccination
The most common cause of pneumonia in children is a type of bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. The same bacteria can also cause septicaemia and meningitis. A vaccine that protects against many strains of this bacteria is included in the routine childhood vaccinations given in the UK. Your child will be offered the pneumococcal vaccine at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year. Further pneumonia vaccines may be recommended for older children who are at higher risk of pneumonia complications because of certain chronic health conditions. The pneumonia vaccine will significantly reduce the risk that your child will develop pneumonia, but it is important to remember that there are still other types of bacteria and many viruses that can cause pneumonia too.
The Seasonal Flu Vaccine and Pneumonia
Another vaccine is also available that can reduce the risk of pneumonia in children. The seasonal flu vaccine, which is usually given as a nasal spray for younger children, can reduce the chances that your child will catch influenza. Like the pneumococcal vaccine, the flu vaccine can’t prevent all strains of flu, but it can stop some of them. A different flu vaccine is offered each year depending on the strains that are circulating. Since pneumonia typically occurs as a secondary infection following an illness such as influenza, protecting your child against the seasonal flu will also reduce their risk of catching pneumonia.