Childrens Services

Chest infection in children

This page has been produced to provide you with general information about chest infections and aims to answer any further questions that you may have. 


What is a chest infection?Show [+]Hide [-]

A chest infection is caused by viruses or bacteria. There is an acute inflammation or infection of part (or parts of the lungs) and airways, this means that the air cannot enter the lungs properly. Sometimes chest infections are referred to as ‘pneumonia’ by medical staff.

What are the symptoms?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Increased breathing rate.
  • Sometimes difficulty in breathing.
  • High temperature.
  • Generally miserable, unwell and lethargic.
  • Your child may also have a cough.
  • A loss of appetite.
  • These symptoms may all be worse at night and the symptoms may vary.

When should I get help from a professional?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • If your child’s breathing becomes worse, more rapid, or they are making a loud noise when breathing in and out (grunting).
  • Your child becomes very pale or goes blue. 
  • Your child stops or refuses drinks for four hours or more and/or has not passed urine for six hours or more
  • Your child looks exhausted and is unable to sleep.

What can I do to help?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to help stop them becoming dehydrated. You may have to give small amounts more often. If you are breast feeding then continue this.
  • If your child has commenced a course of antibiotics, ensure the full course is completed, even when your child feels better.
  • Store all medicines in a safe place and out of reach of children.
  • If the child has a raised temperature or sharp pains, Paracetamol (Calpol) can be given. Ibuprofen, if recommended by the doctor or pharmacist, can be used to help bring down your child’s temperature if Paracetamol is not effective. It can be used by itself or in between doses of Paracetamol. Ibuprofen should not be used in children with asthma or kidney disease. Always follow the instructions on the bottle and do not give more than four doses in 24 hours.
  • Offer your child food, but do not worry if this is refused, your child’s appetite will improve with time.

What happens if my child is admitted back to hospital?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Your child may need a chest x-ray.
  • Your child may also need blood tests.
  • Antibiotics will usually be given. They may be given in the mouth as liquid or tablets or into a vein through a cannula, which is a small plastic tube inserted straight into the vein. 
  • If the infection is severe your child will need to stay in hospital.

Contacts and more informationShow [+]Hide [-]

Dial 999 for an ambulance if your child becomes very drowsy, difficult to wake, is unresponsive or floppy.

Who to contact

  • You can contact your family doctor or GP.
  • Or you can take your child to the nearest walk-in centre.
  • You can also take your child to the nearest A&E Department..
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