Pneumonia is like a sneaky thief that robs you and then stabs you in the back and tries to leave you for dead.
I found that out the hard way while on vacation over the Christmas holiday when my 7-year-old son caught pneumonia while we were on a family vacation at Universal Studios. We planned all year for a really fun vacation and even decided to stay on-site at Cabana Bay Beach Resort but for my son Rudolph J. Smith (who we call Jojo), it wasn’t a happy trip at all.
See, pneumonia will have you think that your kid has just a mild cold when in fact they are suffering from something a whole lot more sinister. I couldn’t tell what my son had because I had never dealt with pneumonia before but I want to give you some idea of what to look for so you won’t be in my predicament.
First, what makes matters worst is that my son also suffers from asthma. So when we got to Orlando my son was coughing and had a fever and was not feeling good. All the signs pointed to a common cold and he was having an asthma flare up too. We had his inhaler along with us and kept giving him puffs and we had motrin, cough syrup and over the counter meds too, which we thought would help his symptoms subside. We monitored him for a few days and when none of the medicines worked, we KNEW something was wrong. Jojo kept coughing so hard that he would cough up phlegm and kept coughing so hard that he couldn’t sleep at night. His asthma medicine is albuterol and is supposed to help get medicine into his lungs to help his airway open up, but that was NOT working.
Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. These airways, or bronchial tubes, allow air to come in and out of the lungs.
If you have asthma, your airways are always inflamed. They become even more swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers your symptoms. This makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness.
Because of his asthma we didn’t think anything else severe was happening with him. We were wrong.
On Christmas Day my son looked spent. He was weak and could hardly walk. That’s when we knew it was time to take him to the emergency room. We were not familiar with Orlando but there was a hospital not too far from where we were staying called Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, and I’m glad we found this hospital.
First let me say thank you to the hospital staff because from beginning to end they were phenomenal. They took my son right in, took his vitals and had us on our way to a room in the emergency ward within minutes of checking in. Immediately they assigned us a respiratory nurse who was very kind (I wish I knew her name!) and she immediately started my son on nebulizer treatments. The doctor on duty came in, actually there were two doctors. Both were very friendly. My son was issued an xray which indicated that he had a mild case of pneumonia. He also had fever, bronchitis, and an ear infection along with his asthma flare up. My poor son was really going through it. Once he started the nebulizer treatment my son threw up everything in his soul! Do you hear me! That boy kept spewing out SO MUCH FLUID! It was unbelievable. He coughed and wheezed and hacked for a few hours! The medical team, which I wish I had gotten everyone’s name, was simply phenomenal. They really took care of my baby boy. They gave him steroids to help with the inflammation, and antibiotics. There was also a nurse with a silly hat who talked to him and tried to make Jojo laugh, but he just wasn’t in the mood. The doctors really were thoughtful in his treatment and care and most importantly, I really FELT like they cared and that my son was important to them.
I thought since he was diagnosed with pneumonia that he’d stay in the hospital but they told me as long as his breathing was OK and his numbers were fine, then he could go. After all the treatments, my son had improved and while we were in the hospital, he finally slept like a baby after all the hacking and wheezing. The poor thing had been through a trying ordeal. They gave us prescriptions for several meds including antibiotics, our own nebulizer machine and oral steroids and then we left hours later to head back to the hotel to get some rest before going back home to Georgia.
Pneumonia is very sneaky and while you may think your child has a common cold, always trust your gut and go to the doctor’s office just to ensure it’s not something more serious. AND get that flu shot! Believe it or not I had a flu shot appointment already set for him on December 28th! Can you believe that! Instead that appointment turned into a followup appointment for his ordeal in Orlando! So I say get those shots early! I learned a hard lesson. Here are a few facts you should know about pneumonia.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. When someone has pneumonia, lung tissue can fill with pus and other fluid, which makes it difficult for oxygen in the lung’s air sacs (alveoli) to reach the bloodstream. With pneumonia, a person may have difficulty breathing and have a cough and fever; occasionally, chest or abdominal pain and vomiting are symptoms, too.
Pneumonia is often caused by viruses, such as the influenza virus(flu) and adenovirus. Other viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus, are common causes of pneumonia in young kids and babies.
Bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause pneumonia, too. People with bacterial pneumonia are usually sicker than those with viral pneumonia, but they can be treated with antibiotic medications.
You might have heard the terms “double pneumonia” or “walking pneumonia.” Double pneumonia simply means that the infection is in both lungs. It’s common for pneumonia to affect both lungs, so don’t worry if your doctor says this is what you have — it doesn’t mean you’re twice as sick.
Walking pneumonia refers to pneumonia that is mild enough that you may not even know you have it. Walking pneumonia (also called atypical pneumonia because it’s different from the typical bacterial pneumonia) is common in teens and is often caused by a tiny microorganism, Mycoplasma pneumoniae (pronounced: my-co-PLAZ-ma noo-MO-nee-ay). Like the typical bacterial pneumonia, walking pneumonia also can be treated with antibiotics. <<<This is what my son had.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
It’s common for a person with pneumonia to start out with something milder like a cough or sore throat — which also can happen in other infections. But pneumonia is a bit worse because the infection goes down into the lungs.
A person with pneumonia might have these symptoms:
- fever (usually a temperature above 101°F/38.5°C)
- very fast breathing (a person might use the belly or neck muscles to help him or her breathe)
- trouble breathing
- chest or abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- vomiting and dehydration
My son had ALL of the above symptoms! The problem is we though his fast breathing, wheezing and trouble breathing was solely due to his asthma. So be careful if you have an asthmatic child. This was also the FIRST time my son ever got this sick and the first time he was ever hospitalized due to his asthma, coupled with pneumonia symptoms.
When pneumonia is caused by bacteria, a person tends to become sick quickly, develop a high fever, and have difficulty breathing. When it’s caused by a virus, the illness comes on more gradually and might be less severe.
Can I Prevent Pneumonia?
The routine vaccinations that most people receive as kids help prevent certain types of pneumonia and other infections. If you have a chronic illness, such as sickle cell disease, you may have received extra vaccinations and disease-preventing antibiotics to help prevent pneumonia and other infections caused by bacteria.
People should get a pneumococcal vaccination if they have diseases that affect their immune system (like diabetes, HIV infection, or cancer), are 65 years or older, or are in other high-risk groups. Depending on the bugs that are likely to affect them, these people also may get antibiotics to prevent pneumonia, as well as antiviral medicine to prevent or lessen the effects of viral pneumonia. (Pneumonia info from kidshealth.org)
The bottom line is: get your kid a FLU SHOT! Better safe than sorry!
Thank you again to Dr. P. Phillips Hospital on 9400 Turkey Lake Drive in Orlando, all the doctors and nursing staff for your wonderful care of my son Rudolph J. Smith! I have only one complaint, I was freezing in the ER and wish I had a comfy chair! LOL Other than that, my son is recovering well, still resting he’s had his follow up appointment and I’ve been spoiling him since his vacation was a little messed up and he didn’t get to get on many rides at Universal Studios because he was sick.