Skip to content

Pneumonia is the leading killer of children worldwide: it kills more children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. Pneumonia is a severe acute lower respiratory infection that specifically affects the lungs. Pus and fluid fill the alveoli, the smallest air spaces in the lungs, and make it difficult to absorb oxygen. 

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is the leading cause of severe pneumonia among children in the developing world. The WHO estimates that more than 1.6 million people die of pneumococcal pneumonia each year, and over half of these deaths -- up to 1 million-- are in children under the age of 5. Pneumonia can also be caused by some kinds of viruses, such as influenza, and some kinds of fungi, such as Pneumocystis jiroveci (PCP) which is an important cause of pneumonia in individuals with AIDS.

In infants and young children, pneumonia usually begins with a sudden fever. Tachypnea (rapid breathing) is also an important sign of the presence of pneumonia.

• Before the 2 months of age: more than 60 breaths per minute;
• 2 to 11 months of age: more than 50 breaths per minute;
• 12 months to 5 years: over 40 breaths per minute.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 December 2009 05:21

Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
Tel.: +1 (202) 974-3000 Fax: +1 (202) 974-3663

© Pan American Health Organization. All rights reserved.