Walking Away from Pneumonia?
My two-year-old daughter has walking pneumonia. Exactly what is this, and how do you think she got it?
As you might suspect, "walking" pneumonia isn't a medical term -- it's a popular one which usually means you feel sick, but you're unaware you have pneumonia and are still walking around instead of staying in bed. However you describe it, pneumonia is a lung infection -- either viral or bacterial -- and you can get it many different ways. Pneumonia can develop in the aftermath of a cold or flu if your immune system has been weakened. In children, it may follow a bout of measles, whooping cough, or chicken pox. Symptoms at first may suggest a cold, but within two or three days the child develops a fever. Other symptoms include a dry cough, shortness of breath while at rest, or difficulty breathing -- and sometimes, wheezing. (You may have heard the term "double" pneumonia, which implies that both lungs are affected.)
The majority of the time, viral pneumonia is less serious than bacterial pneumonia. If your daughter's case has been described as "walking" pneumonia, it is probably a very mild one. Treatment includes bed rest, drinking lots of clear liquids, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to bring the fever down.
Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics (which do not help if the infection is viral), in addition to rest and plenty of liquids. People over the age of 65 are advised to get the vaccine for pneumococcus, one of the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia.
You may be interested to know that zinc supplements can help reduce the incidence of respiratory infections such as pneumonia among young children. A study conducted in India found that giving babies (ages 6 to 35 months) a daily supplement of 10 mg of zinc cut the rate of infections by almost half. (The team of researchers were from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.)
It is unlikely that your daughter is deficient in zinc, which is plentiful in meat, milk, eggs, legumes (dried beans, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, lentils, peas, soy products), and whole grains. However, if she seems unusually susceptible to respiratory infections, ask her pediatrician about zinc supplements -- low doses of zinc can boost immunity. Don't overdo it, though, high doses (over 100 mg) can depress immunity. And if she's taking zinc over a long period of time, I suggest you also give her a daily dose of 2 mg of copper -- zinc can also deplete the body's copper stores.