Pneumonia on the rise among children in Central Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Reports of flu cases in Central Texas are trending down, but pneumonia is now on the rise. Doctors say it is especially true among babies and children.

Dr. Eric Higginbothan with Dell Children’s Hospital says they have seen an increase in just the last week or so.  Simple tests can determine if someone has pneumonia, including a chest X-ray.

There are two main types of pneumonia: viral and bacterial.

“Either with the viral or bacterial pneumonia, something has to get down into the lungs and infect them,” Higginbothan said.

That infection then worsens and can spread in the lungs. Antibiotics often do the trick, but if fluid starts to build, patients need more extreme treatment.

“Those kids can get really sick, and so if we see someone who has a pneumonia like that, then that fluid has to be drained surgically with a small tube,” Higginbothan said, “and then those people are treated very aggressively with antibiotics.”

Pneumonia commonly develops from the flu virus. While doctors can’t directly connect the number of flu cases with the number of pneumonia cases, they say often when people are recovering from the flu, they can more easily develop pneumonia.

Symptoms of pneumonia include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, fever, headache and confusion. Higginbothan says simple measures like washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent spreading illnesses that lead to pneumonia. And, getting a flu shot.

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