|DR. CRISBERT I. CUALTEROS
CRISBERT I. CUALTEROS, M.D.
Content of the new page
Clinical Practice Guidelines on
Respiratory Tract Infections
List of committee members 3
Common Cold 5
Sore throat 6
Viral bronchiolitis 16
List of Tables and Algorithms 37
CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINE COMMITTEE
Dr. Azizi Hj Omar
Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Chest Physician
Damansara Specialist Hospital
Dr. Norzila Mohamed Zainudin
Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Chest Physician
Members (in alphabetical order)
Dr. Bilkis Banu Abd Aziz Dr. Koh Chong Tuan
Associate Professor Consultant Paediatrician
Department of Paediatrics Island Hospital
Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Penang
Dr. Mazidah Abdul Rasid Dr. M Paramjothy
Lecturer Consultant Paediatrician
Department of Paediatrics Assunta Hospital
Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
Kubang Kerian, Kelantan
Dr. Noor Khatijah Nurani Dr. Wong Swee Lan
Consultant Paediatrician Consultant Paediatrician
Paediatric Unit Institut Pediatrik
Hospital Ipoh Kuala Lumpur
Dr. Patrick Chan Wai Kiong
Department of Paediatrics
Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya
Pneumonia and other respiratory infections are the main causes of morbidity and
mortality among children worldwide. They occupy most of the consultation time at the
primary care as well as in the hospital setting. Managing these ailments imposes
enormous burdens on our resources. It is fitting that the most appropriate and costeffective
approaches are employed.
There are many controversial issues in the management of respiratory infections.
The use of antibiotics, cough suppressants, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, chest
physiotherapy, inhaled and systemic steroids, bronchodilators, adrenaline and oxygen are
the most important issues to be addressed. Issues regarding diagnosis and investigations
also require clarification. These guidelines attempt to address these issues by looking at
the evidence in the world literature and proposing evidence-based practices in the local
context. The epidemiology of respiratory infections and their sequelae in this part of the
world do certainly influence some aspects of these guidelines.
Five different syndromes are discussed, namely the common cold, sore throat, croup,
acute viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia. These are distinct syndromes that need to be
identified confidently by the attending clinician. The management of each of these
conditions is different and a misdiagnosis should be avoided.
The committee hopes that these guidelines will be used extensively at all levels of care.
Dr. Azizi Haji Omar
Dr. Norzila Zainudin
1. Correct identification of the common cold syndrome is important i n ensuring
2. Antibiotic therapy is not useful
The common cold is a highly infectious viral upper respiratory illness caused by over 100
different virus types
syndrome in children and treat appropriately.
1. It is important that clinicians correctly identify the common cold
The minimal symptoms that define the common cold syndrome are nasal discharge, nasal
stuffiness and throat irritation resulting in a cough. A purulent nasal discharge does not
necessarily indicate bacterial infection.
Infants are more likely to have an associated fever (38
and sleep difficulties. There is usually little or no fever in older children but they may
complain of myalgia, lethargy and anorexia.
The uncomplicated cold has a uniformly excellent outcome with illness duration of about
7 days. A persistent fever with worsening symptoms beyond 7 days may indicate
secondary bacterial infection. A lingering clear nasal discharge may persist fo r up to 2
0C or more) and experience feeding
None are required.
Antibiotic therapy is not useful. The common cold is usually a self- limiting illness and
no specific therapy is indicated. Common cold remedies often prescribed have not been
shown to provide any significant benefit and are generally not recommended
general measures that may help include
1. fever relief
2. nasal obstruction/stuffiness relief
3. frequent fluid intake/small frequent feeds
4. avoidance of environmental tobacco smoke
1. Viruses remain the most common cause for sore throat. Group A
Streptococcus (GABHS) is responsible for 1 or 2 of 10 children with sore
2. Both throat culture and rapid antigen testing should not be routinely
3. A constellation of clinical features that allows presumptive treatment of a high
proportion of people with GABHS pharyngitis is recommended.
4. A 10-day course of penicillin is the drug of choice for the treatment of GABSH
5. The use of codeine preparation for the treatment of cough is strongly
discouraged in children and young infants. The sedative effects, potential for
serious toxicity and uncertain efficacy make anti-histamines an unsuitable
cold remedy for young infants
Sore throat encompasses the following clinical descriptions: acute pharyngitis, tonsillitis,
acute exudative tonsillitis and pharyngotonsillitis. These terms are treated as synonymous
for the purpose of this guideline.
Sore throat is uncommon in children le ss than 1 year of age. The incidence increases to a
peak at 4-7 years but continues throughout later childhood and adult life
Viruses remain the most common cause for sore throat
Streptococcus (GABHS), the most important bacterial cause of sore throat is accountable
for only 1 or 2 of 10 children with sore throat
1.1. Group A ? -hemolytic2.
Viral and bacterial (GABHS) pharyngitis have many similar signs and symptoms.
Conjunctivitis, rhinitis, cough, hoarseness, coryza, anterior stomatitis, discrete ulcerative
lesions, viral exanthem and diarrhoea strongly suggest a viral aetiology.
Table 1: Clinical features strongly suggestive of streptococcal pharyngitis
diffuse redness of the tonsils and pharyngeal exudates
tender, enlarged anterior cervical lymph nodes
absence of symptoms or signs suggesting viral pharyngitis eg. rhinorrhoea,
When a membranous exudate is present on the tonsils, consider diphtheria especially in
the under-immunized child, and infectious mononucleosis.
A syndrome of purulent nasal discharge, pharyngitis and persistent fever may be
associated with secondary infection with
complication of viral pharyngitis
S. pneumococcus or H. influenzae, a possible1.
Both throat culture and rapid antigen testing should not be carried out routinely in
patients with a sorethroat
Throat swabs are neither sensitive nor specific for serologically confirmed infections. The
sensitivity of Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) measured against throat culture is wide and
varies between 61% - 95%, although specificity may be better at 88%-100%. Both
considerably increase cost and alter few management decisions.
The Center for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that
the diagnosis of GABHS pharyngitis should be based on results of appropriate laboratory
tests in conjunction with clinical and epidemiological findings. Anti- microbial therapy
should not be given to a child with pharyngitis in the absence of evidence for GABHS or
other bacterial infection. Specific identification of GABHS infection before antibiotic
treatment of pharyngitis is however not practical in Malaysia. A constellation of clinical
features that allows presumptive treatment of a high proportion of people with GABHS
pharyngitis is therefore recommended
The complication rate is low in viral infection but secondary purulent bacterial otitis
media may occur.
With bacterial disease, suppurative complications are uncommon in young children and
include the following:
b. otitis media
c. cervical adenitis
d. peritonsillar abscess (quinsy)
e. retropharyngeal abscess
Acute glomerulonephritis and rheumatic fever may follow streptococcal infections. It is
important to treat suspected GABHS pharyngitis with adequate dose and duration of the
appropriate antibiotics as acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic valvular heart disease are
still major health problems in Malaysia
1. Provide a full explanation of the likely course of the illness to the parents. The child
can be treated at home unless he/she is unable to drink, has stridor, or develops
2. Ensure adequate oral hydration.
3. Adequate analgesia is usually all that is required ie paracetamol.
Antibiotic therapy is not routinely required in all children with sore throat
antibiotics should not be withheld if the clinical condition is severe or GASBH is
early administration of appropriate antibiotic therapy
If GABSH pharyngitis is suspected, a 10 day course of penicillin is the treatment of
Infectious mononucleosis may present with severe sore throat, tonsillar exudates and
anterior cervical lymphadenopathy,. Ampicillin-based antibiotics, including coamoxiclavulanic
acid should be avoided as first line treatment
Table 2: Recommended antibiotic therapy in GABHS pharyngitis
Oral penicillin V 10-15mg/kg every 8 hours daily for 10 days or
Oral amoxicillin 25mg/kg every 8 hours daily for 10 days or
Oral ampicillin 25mg/kg every 6 hours daily for 10 days
1. However,5. Complications like rheumatic fever, otitis media and quinsy benefit from8.1,2,3,5,.5.
If compliance cannot be assured, give:
IM benzathine penicillin 600 000 units for children < 5 years
1.2 mega unit for children > 5 years
If patient is allergic to penicillin, use oral erythromycin succinate 15-25mg/kg every
12 hours for 10 days.
Other antibiotics namely macrolides and cepahalosporins have also been shown to be
effective and may be given for a shorter duration.
Relieve nasal congestion when it interferes with feeding. Saline nose drops may be tried.
Use of intranasal anti-decongestants in young infants less than 3 months of age are not
Oral antihistamines have been shown to provide a modest degree of symptomatic relief of
nasal congestion in adults. However, their sedative effects, potential for serious toxicity
and uncertain efficacy make anti- histamines an unsuitable cold remedy for young infants
The use of codeine preparation for the treatment of cough is strongly discouraged in
children and young infants.
1. Croup refers to a clinical syndrome characterized by barking cough,
inspiratory stridor, hoarse voice and respiratory distress of varying severity.
2. A routine neck radiograph is not necessary, unless the diagnosis is in doubt.
3. Steroid therapy is effective and should be routinely used in moderate - severe
4. Nebulised adrenaline may be used to provide rapid relief but its effect is
Croup affects children between 6 months to 6 years with the peak incidence between the
age of 1-2 years; usually involving twice as many boys than girls
vary between 3% to 50%, worldwide. About 15% of patients have a family history of
The most common aetiological agent is parainfluenza virus (74%) followed by
respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, adenovirus, enterovirus, measles, mumps and
cause the croup syndrome
Viral invasion of the laryngeal, tracheal and bronchial mucosa leads to inflammation,
hyperemia, edema, epithelial necrosis and shedding of this region. This leads to irritation
(cough), airway obstruction due to subglottic narrowing (biphasic stridor), collapse
supraglottic region (inspiratory stridor), and respiratory distress.
1, 2. Hospitalization rates3.Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Corynebacterium Diptheriae may rarely4.
The illness begins with a low- grade fever and a prodrome of cough and coryza for 12-72
hours followed by
increasingly bark-like cough and hoarseness
stridor that may occur when excited, at rest or both
respiratory distress of varying degree
iral croup is the commonest cause of acute onset stridor. However other conditions have
to be considered in the differential diagnosis (see algorithm 1)
Acute epiglotitis and bacterial tracheitis though very rare have occurred in Malaysian
children. Foreign body aspiration is a universal problem. Fatal cases of diphtheria have
recently been reported among un-immunised children in Selangor.
safe to visualise the pharynx to exclude acute epiglotitis, retropharyngeal abscess etc
5 Studies show that it is6.
Though essentially a benign self–limiting disease, complications occur in about 15% of
patients and include:
secondary bacterial tracheitis
The diagnosis is most importantly made on clinical grounds.
A routine neck radiograph is not necessary, unless the diagnosis is in doubt, such as in
the exclusion of a foreign body
Although not essential for diagnosis or management, the virus responsible can be isolated
from nasopharyngeal secretions with the isolation rate reported to be between 22% and
Assessment of severity
1. Clinical Assessment of Croup
a. Mild: Stridor with excitement or at rest, with no respiratory distress.
b. Moderate: Stridor at rest with intercostal, subcostal or sternal recession.
c. Severe: Stridor at rest with marked recession, decreased air entry and
altered level of consciousness.
2. Pulse oxymetry: This is helpful but not essential
3. Arterial blood gas is not helpful as the blood parameters may remain normal until the
late stage. The process of blood taking may distress the child.
Treatment of viral croup
The management of croup requires a calm and reassuring approach.
I Indications for hospital admission
1. Moderate and severe viral croup.
2. Toxic looking
3. Poor oral intake
4. Age less than six months
5. Unreliable caregivers at home
6. Family that lives a long distance from the hospital and lacks reliable transport
II Corticosteroid therapy
namely dexamethasone and nebulised budesonide in viral croup. There is significant
improvement in the following outcomes:
1. severity of symptoms
2. need for co- intervention with nebulised adrenaline
3. the number of patients admitted to hospital after treatment in emergency department
4. the number of patients requiring PICU care
5. number of children requiring intubation
6. duration of hospitalization .
Steroid therapy acts by both the anti-inflammatory and vasoconstrictive mechanisms.
Both oral dexamethasone and nebulised budesonide are equally effective and may even
be additive in their efficacy when given together. However oral dexamethasone is easier
and cheaper to administer
Budesonide is a synthetic glucocorticoid that is deposited in the upper airway; the point
of maximal inflammation in croup. It is effective within 1-2 hours of administration and
lasts as long as 24 hours
11 of several clinical studies have proven the efficacy of steroid therapy12 ,13.14.
III. Nebulised Adrenaline
While nebulised racemic adrenaline has been in use for the last 30 years, recent
randomised controlled trials have proven L- adrenaline to be equally effective
(known commonly as adrenaline) is available in Malaysia and many parts of
Asia. The recommended dose is 0.5 mg/ kg, to a maximum of 5mg of 1:1000
on within 30 minutes and lasts for about 2 hours. The recurrence of symptoms after 2
hours have on occasion been described as the “rebound phenomenon”; that will most
likely be less severe with the concomitant administration of steroid therapy. Nebulised
15. Only Ladrenaline16,17,18. Normal saline can be used as a diluent, if necessary. The effect comes
adrenaline should generally not be given to children with congenital cyanotic heart
disease especially those with right outflow obstruction.
IV Endotracheal Intubation
The use of steroid therapy and nebulised adrenaline in severe croup, where the sustained
action of steroids is combined with the quick action of adrenaline have reduced the rate
of intubation from about 3% to nil.
criteria and should be done under controlled conditions ie Operation Theatre or Paediatric
Intensive Care Unit, with anaesthesiologist and otolarnygologist in attendance.
11,18 The decision to intubate is made on clinical
V Oxygen Therapy
The indications for oxygen therapy include:
1. severe viral croup
2. percutaneous SpO
2 < 93%
Caution: With oxygen therapy, the SaO2 may be normal despite progressive
respiratory failure and a high PaCO2. Clinical assessment and vigilance remain
important in monitoring children with viral croup.
It is not recommended unless secondary bacterial infection is strongly suspected or if the
patient is very ill and toxic- looking.
VII Intravenous fluids
They are not usually necessary except for those unable to drink.
VIII Mist Therapy
There is no evidence to support its use.
*Algorithm 2 is a summary of the treatment for viral croup.
APPROACH TO THE DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS OF ACUTE ONSET STRIDOR
Fever No Fever
High Fever (>38.5)
Throat Normal Throat: bulging pharynx
Bacterial Tracheitis Diphteriae
Throat swollen epiglottis
Retrophryngeal abscess Acute Epiglotitis
History of choking History of Allergy
Foreign Body Angioneurotic edema
Age 6 mths-2
Age 1 -2 years
Age <3 years
Age < 2years
Age 3-7 years
Age 6 mth - 4 years
Throat: grey exudate
THE MANAGEMENT OF VIRAL CROUP
MILD MODERATE SEVERE
Outpatient In patient Inpatient
Oral (1st choice)/Parenteral
0.15 kg/single dose
May repeat at 12 and 24 hours
Prednisolone 1-2 mg / kg/stat
or if vomiting
2 mg single dose only
0.3-0.6 mg/kg single dose
2mg stat and 1 mg 12 hrly
0.5 mg/kg 1:1000
2mg stat, 1 mg 12 hrly
Intubate and ventilate
1. Respiratory syncytial virus is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in
2. Severe respiratory distress is more likely to develop in infants who have risk
factors namely prematurity, chronic lung disease, a very young age (less
than six weeks old) and congenital heart disease.
3. Supportive therapy and oxygen supplementation if necessary remain the
cornerstones of treatment.
4. A trial of nebulised bronchodilator therapy may be given but regular
assessment and vigilance during treatment is essential.
5. Chest physiotherapy, routine antibiotic and ribavarin therapy are not
Viral bronchiolitis is a common respiratory illness especially in infants between 1 to 6
bronchiolitis in Malaysia
periodicity with annual peaks occur, in the months of November, December and
1. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) remains the commonest cause of acute2,3,4. Although it is endemic throughout the year, cyclical5.
Viral bronchiolitis typically presents with a mild coryza, low grade fever and cough.
Tachypnoea, chest wall recession, whe eze and respiratory distress subsequently
develop. Parents usually report that the infant may sound “chesty” especially at night
and may appear breathless after feeding. The chest may be hyperinflated and
auscultation usually reveals fine crepitations and sometimes rhonchi.
The majority of children with viral bronchiolitis has mild illness and about 1% of these
children require hospital admission. Several categories of infants are at high risk of
developing severe disease (Table 4.1). Severe respiratory distress requiring paediatric
intensive care occurs in 5% of hospitalized children and 2% develop respiratory failure
requiring ventilatory support; overall mortality however remains low
Table 3: Categories of infants at high risk for severe respirator y distress
History of prematurity less than 36 weeks gestation
Congenital heart disease
Chronic lung disease
Age less than six weeks
A chest x-ray is not routinely required but recommended for children with severe
respiratory distress, unusual clinical features, an underlying cardiac or chronic
respiratory disorder and if intensive care is required. There is a wide range of
radiological changes seen in viral bronchiolitis; hyperinflation is most commonly seen,
segmental or lobar collapse/consolidation may be found.
Although not essential for diagnosis or management, respiratory viruses can be isolated
from nasopharyngeal secretions.
The decision to determine hospitalization in viral bronchiolitis is essentially clinical and
outlined in Table 4.
Table 4: Guideline for Hospital Admission in Viral Bronchiolitis
Home Management Hospital management
Age < than 3 months No Yes
Toxic – looking No Yes
Chest recession Mild Moderate/Severe
Central cyanosis No Yes
Wheeze Yes Yes
Crepitations on auscultation Yes Yes
Feeding Well Difficult
Apnoea No Yes
Oxygen saturation >95% <93%
High risk group No Yes
The distance between the home and primary health care facility, parental anxiety and
social circumstances should be taken into consideration when evaluating the child’s
need for hospital admission
The foundation of managing infants with acute bronchiolitis include vital physiological
monitoring (heart rate, respiratory rate, cutaneous oxygenation, level of consciousness),
adequate hydration, minimal handling and early recognition of complications especially
respiratory failure and its prompt treatment.
I Oxygen Therapy
Careful assessment of the respiratory status and oxygenation are the most critical
aspects of caring for children with viral bronchiolitis. Arterial oxygenation as
ascertained by pulse oxymetry (Sa0
and maintained above 93%; with the administration of supplemental humidified oxygen
Clinicians must monitor for signs of impending respiratory failure including inability to
maintain satisfactory SpO
young infants are at risk of apnoea and require greater vigilance
2) should be performed for all infants at presentation11.2 on inspired oxygen of more than 40% or a rising PCO2. Very12.
Table 5: Modes of Oxygen Delivery to Infants
Intranasal oxygen 0.1 – 3 Liters/minute
Headbox oxygen 5 – 15 Litres/minute
Ventimask 5-8 Litres/ minute
High flow mask 5 – 15 Litres/minute
Positive pressure ventilation FiO
2 0.21 –1.0 %
II Nutrition and Fluid Therapy
Infants admitted with viral bronchiolitis frequently have poor feeding, are at risk of
children with moderate respiratory distress. Naso-gastric feeding, although not
universally practiced, may be useful in these children who refuse to feed and also to
empty the dilated stomach.
Intravenous fluids are given to children with severe respiratory distress, cyanosis and
apnoea. Fluid therapy should be restricted to maintenance requirement of 100 ml/kg/day
for infants, in the absence of dehydration.
13 and may be dehydrated. Small frequent feeds as tolerated can be allowed in
III Nebulised Bronchodilators
There is no definitive evidence to support the routine use of nebulised bronchodilators in
the treatment of viral bronchiolitis.
Data concerning the efficacy of
bronchiolitis remains inconclusive
adrenaline, which has both
bronchiolitis has been disappointing
Nonetheless, in view that pooled data have indicated a modest clinical improvement
with its use
infants with viral bronchiolitis. Vigilant and regular assessment of the child should be
carried out if such a treatment is provided.
ß2 agonist i.e. salbutamol in the treatment of viral14. Limited studies using nebulised racemica and ß2 agonist effects, appears superior to salbutamol or15, 16. The efficacy of anticholinergic agents i.e. ipratropium bromide in viral17, 18 .19, a trial of nebulised ß2-agonist, given in oxygen, may be considered in
IV Corticosteroid therapy
The role of corticosteroid therapy in acute bronchiolitis remains unresolved.
Randomised controlled trials of the use of inhaled steroids for treatment of viral
bronchiolitis demonstrated no meaningful benefit
of systemic corticosteroid showed possible benefits in infants with severe bronchiolitis
resulting in a reduction in the clinical scores and length of hospital stay
20. However a meta-analysis of the use21.
V Ribavirin therapy
Ribavirin is the only anti-viral agent approved for RSV bronchiolitis. However,
systematic review of the evidence of its efficacy does not support its use as
22. Ribavirin is not a registered drug in Malaysia.
VI Antibiotic therapy
Acute bronchiolitis is usually viral in origin. The risk of secondary bacterial infection in
children who has no underlying pulmonary or immune disorder is less than 2%
Although secondary infection is uncommon, dual infection with RSV and bacteria or
other organisms should be considered in the presence of atypical clinical or radiological
features. Antibiotic therapy is recommended for all infants with
recurrent apnoea and circulatory impairment,
possibility of septicaemia
acute clinical deterioration
high white cell count
progressive infiltrative changes on chest radiography.
There is no effective RSV vaccine available.
Humanised RSV specific monoclonal antibody prophylaxis
Humanised RSV specific monoclonal antibody (Palivizumab
USA) prophylaxis when given during the expected annual RSV outbreak period has
been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of hospitalization and severe
respiratory disease in infants in the “high risk” categories
administered at a dose of 15 mg/kg monthly during the RSV season namely from
November to January.
The recommended groups of children that will most benefit from prophylaxis include
1. Chronic lung disease
Children or infants less than 24 months of age who required medical treatment in the
last 6 months before the anticipated RSV season. Medical treatment includes
supplementary oxygen, corticosteroids, bronchodilators and diuretics.
2. Premature infants less than 32 weeks gestation without chronic lung disease
Infants less than 28 weeks gestation up to 12 months of age at the
start of the RSV season
Infants between 28 – 32 weeks gestation up to 6 months of age at the
start of the RSV season
Its use is generally not recommended in children with congenital heart disease.
@, Abbott Laboratories,25, 26. Prophylaxis is27:
Side effects are uncommon. Fever and discomfort at the site of administration may be
encountered. Routine immunization can be given as scheduled.
Prophylaxis is costly and there is no evidence to demonstrate cost -effectiveness with its
use as recommended in Malaysia.
It should not be used unless the infants is intubated and receiving positive pressure
IX Chest Physiotherapy
Infants with respiratory distress often show a fall in SaO
Minimal handling is an important aspect of care. Physiotherapy is not only of no benefit,
but may cause unnecessary and more importantly, acute deterioration resulting in
2 when handled or upset.28.
1. Tachypnoea is the best single predictor of pneumonia in children of all ages.
2. Bacterial pneumonia cannot be reliably distinguished from viral pneumonia
on the basis of any single parameter; clinical, laboratory or chest radiograph
3. The age of the child, local epidemiology of respiratory pathogens and
sensitivity of these pathogens to particular microbial agents and the
emergence of anti-microbial resistance determine the choice of antibiotic
4. Anti-tussive remedies and chest physiotherapy should NOT be routinely
prescribed for children with pneumonia.
Acute respiratory infections namely pneumonia cause up to 5 million deaths
annually among children less than 5 years old in developing nations. Of the estimated
total of 12.9 million deaths globally in 1990 in children under 5 years of age, over 3.6
million were attributed to acute respiratory infections mostly due to pneumonia. This
represents 28% of all deaths in young children and places pneumonia as the largest
single cause of childhood mortality. In Malaysia the prevalence of ARI in children
below the age of five years is estimated to be 28% - 39.3%
Low birth weight, malnutrition, nasopharyngeal colonization, poor environmental
factors and tobacco smoke are risk factors for developing pneumonia. Two local studies
conducted in hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections
identified the following factors as risks for developing pneumonia
1.low weight for age
2.lack of breast feeding
3.failure to complete immunization
4.presence of coughing sibling (s) at home
5.overcrowding in bedroom
Clinical definition of pneumonia
There is no single definition for pneumonia. It is a clinical illness defined in terms of
symptoms and signs, and its course. WHO defines pneumonia in terms of febrile illness
with tachypnoea for which there is no apparent cause
There are two clinical definitions of pneumonia:
1. bronchopneumonia which is a febrile illness with cough, respiratory distress with
evidence of localised or generalised patchy infiltrates on chest x-ray
2. lobar pneumonia which is similar to bronchopneumonia except that the physical
findings and radiographs indicate lobar consolidation.
A specific aetiological agent cannot be identified in 40% to 60% of cases
pneumonia cannot be distinguished from bacterial pneumonia based on a combination of
clinical findings. The majority of lower respiratory tract infections that present for
medical attention in young children are viral in origin such as respiratory syncytial
virus, influenza, adenovirus and parainfluenza virus. One helpful indicator in predicting
aetiological agents is the age group as shown in Table 6.
Table 6: Pathogens causing pneumonia
Age Bacterial Pathogens
Newborns Group B streptococcus,
Escherichia coli, Klebsiella species,
1- 3 months
Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type b,
Less common: group A streptococcus,
Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae
The clinical diagnosis of pneumonia has traditionally been made using auscultatory
findings such as bronchial breath sounds and crepitations in children with cough.
However, the sensitivity of auscultation has been shown to be poor and varies between
33 %- 60% with an average of 50 % in children.
Tachypnoea is the best single predictor in children of all ages.
tachypnoea is better compared with observations of retractions or auscultatory findings
10 Measurement of11
It is nonetheless important to measure respiratory rate accurately
should be counted by inspection for 60 seconds. However in the young infants,
pneumonia may present with irregular breathing and hypopnea.
12. Respiratory rate
Children with bacterial pneumonia cannot be reliably distinguished from those with
viral disease on the basis of any single parameter; clinical, laboratory or chest
1. Chest radiograph
Chest radiograph is indicated when clinical criteria suggests pneumonia. It will not
identify the aetiological agent. However the chest radiograph is not always necessary if
facilities are not available or the pneumonia is mild
2. Complete white blood cell and differential count
This test may be helpful as an increased white blood count with predominance of
polymorphonuclear cells may suggest bacterial cause. However, leucopenia can either
suggest a viral cause or severe overwhelming infection.
3. Blood culture
Blood culture remains the non-invasive gold standard for determining the precise
aetiology of pneumonia. However the sensitivity of this test is very low. Positive blood
cultures are found only in 10% to 30% of patients with pneumonia
patients with radiographic findings consistent with pneumonia, only 2.7% were positive
for pathogenic bacteria.
when there is poor response to the first line antibiotics.
4. Culture from respiratory secretions
It should be noted that bacteria isolates from throat swabs and upper respiratory tract
secretions are not representative of pathogens present in the lower respiratory tract.
Samples from the nasopharynx and throat have no predictive values.
should not be routinely done.
5. Other tests
Bronchoalveolar lavage is usually necessary for the diagnosis of
15. Even in 44% of16 Blood culture should be performed in severe pneumonia or6 This investigationPneumocystis carini
infections primarily in immunosuppressed children
and expertise are available.
If there is significant pleural effusion diagnostic, pleural tap will be helpful.
. It is only to be done when facilities
Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia, Legio nella and Moxarella catarrhalis
difficult organisms to culture, and thus serological studies should be performed in
children with suspected atypical pneumonia. An acute phase serum titre of more than
1:160 or paired samples taken 2-4 weeks apart showing four fold rise is a good indicator
aged five years or older with pneumonia.
areMycoplasma pneumoniae infection. 17 This test should be considered for children
I Assessment of severity of pneumonia
The predictive value of respiratory rate fo r the diagnosis of pneumonia is age specific
Table 7: Definition of Tachypnoea
Less than 2 months > 60 /min
2- 12 months > 50 /min
12 months – 5 years > 40/ min
Assessment of severity is essential for optimal management of pneumonia. Pneumonia
may be categorized according to mild, severe, very severe based on the respiratory signs
and symptoms (Table 8 and Table 9)
Table 8: Assessment of severity of pneumonia in infants below two months old.
Severe pneumonia Severe chest indrawing or fast breathing
Very severe pneumonia Not feeding
Abnormally sleepy or difficult to wake
Fever/ low body temperature
Hypopnea with slow irregular breathing
Table 9: Assessment of severity of pneumonia in children age 2 months to 5 years old
Mild Pneumonia Fast breathing
Severe pneumonia Chest indrawing
Very severe pneumonia Not able to drink
Adapted from WHO
II Assessment of oxygenation
The best objective measurement of hypoxia is by pulse oximetry which avoids the need
for arterial blood gases. It is a good indicator of the severity of pneumonia
III Criteria for hospitalization
Community acquired pneumonia can be treated at home. It is crucial to identify
indicators of severity in children who may need admission as failure to do so may result
in death. The following indicators can be used as a guide for admission.
1. Children aged <3 months whatever the severity of pneumonia.
2. Fever (>38.5
3. Rapid breathing with or without cyanosis
4. Systemic manifestation
5. Failure of previous antibiotic therapy
6. Recurrent pneumonia
7. Severe underlying disorders ( i.e. immunodeficiency, chronic lung disease )
0 C), refusal to feed and vomiting
IV Antibiotic therapy
When treating pneumonia clinical, laboratory and radiographic findings should be
considered. The age of the child, local epidemiology of respiratory pathogens and
sensitivity of these pathogens to particular microbial agents and the emergence of
antimicrobial resistance also determine the choice of antibiotic therapy (Table 10 and
Table 11) The severity of the pneumonia and drug costs have also a great impact on the
selection of therapy (Table 5.7).
The majority of childhood infections are caused by viruses and do not require any
antibiotic. However, it is also very important to remember that we should be vigilant to
choose appropriate antibiotics especially in the initial treatment to reduce further
mortality and morbidity.
Table 10: Susceptibility (%) pattern of
Streptococcus pneumoniae found in Malaysia 20
Antibio tic Susceptible Intermediate Resistance
Azithromycin 98.1 1.9
Cefuroxime 99.6 0.4
Chloramphenicol 95.1 1.5 3.4
Chlindamycin 9.2 0.4 0.4
Cotrimoxazole 86.4 3.9 9.7
Erythromycin 98.4 0.4 1.1
Penicillin 93.0 7.0
Tetracycline 78.2 0.8 21.0
Table 11: Predominant bacterial pathogens of children and the recommended
antimicrobial agents to be used.
Pathogens Antimicrobial agent
Beta- lactam susceptible
Haemophilus influenzae type b
Group A Sreptococcus
e Macrolides such as erythromycin and
Macrolides such as erythromycin and
Table 12: Commonly used antibiotics and their dosages
Macrolides such as erythromycin and
Intravenous Antibiotics Dosages
Amoxycillin-Clavulanate Acid 10-25mg/kg/dose 8 hrly
Ampicillin -sulbactam 10-25 mg/kg/dose 8 hrly
Ampicillin 100mg/kg/day 6 hrly
C. Penicillin 25,000-50,000U/kg/dose 6 hourly
Cefuroxime 10-25 mg/kg/dose 8 hrly
Cefotaxime 25-50mg/kg/dose 8 hrly
Cloxacillin 25-50mg/kg/dose 6hrly
Co-trimoxazole (trimethoprim ) 4 mg/kg/dose 12 hrly
Erythromycin 7.5mg kg/dose 6 hrly
Oral Antibiotis Dosages
Azithromycin 10-15 mg/kg/day daily dose
Augmentin 114 mg 12 hourly (less than 2 years)
228 mg 12 hourly (more than 2 years)
Cefuroxime 125 mg 12 hourly (less than 2 years)
250 mg 12 hourly (more than 2 years)
Cotrimoxazole 4 mg/kg/dose 12 hourly
Cloxacillin 50mg/kg /dose 6 hourly
Erythromycin Estolate 7.5 mg/kg/dose 12 hour ly
Penicillin V 7.5 - 15 mg/kg/dose 6 hourly
I Antibiotic therapy
For inpatient management of children with severe pneumonia, the following antibiotic
therapy is recommended.
2nd line Cephalosporins : Cefotaxime, Cefuroxime, Ceftazidime,
? lactams drugs: Benzlypenicillin, Amoxycillin, Ampicillin,
3rd line Carbapenem: Imepenam
Others Aminoglycosides: Gentamicin, Amikacin
If there are no signs of recovery; especially if the patient remains toxic and ill with
spiking temperature for 48-72 hours, a 2
is the appropriate choice
A child admitted to hospital with severe community acquired pneumonia must receive
parenteral antibiotics. As a rule, in severe cases of pneumonia, combination therapy
using a second or third generation cephalasporins and macrolide should be given.
nd of 3rd line antibiotic therapy need to beMycoplasma or Chlamydia species are the causative agents, a macrolide
infections and infection caused by Gram negative organisms such as
are more frequently reported in malnourished children.
infections in children. Nevertheless a high index of suspicion is required because of the
potential for rapid deterioration.
the presence of multilobar consolidation, cavitation, pneumatocoeles, spontaneous
pneumothorax, empyema and pleural effusion
intravenous cloxacillin (200mg/kg.day) for a longer duration and drainage of empyema
will result in good outcome in the majority of cases.
is responsible for a small proportion of acute respiratory21 It is chiefly a disease of infants with a significant22 Radiological features suggestive of Staphylococcal pneumonia include21,23. Treatment with high dose
II Supportive treatment
1. Fluid therapy
Oral intake should cease when a child is in severe respiratory distress. In severe
pneumonia, inappropriate secretion of anti-diuretic hormone is increased
is therefore uncommon. It is important that the child should not be overhydrated.
2. Oxygen therapy
Oxygen reduces mortality associated with severe pneumonia. It should be given
especially to children who are restless, tachypnoea with severe chest indrawing,
cyanosed or not tolerating feeds. The SpO
3. Anti-tussive remedies
It is not recommended as it causes suppression of cough and may interfere with airway
clearance. Adverse effects and overdosa ge have been reported
24, dehydration2 should be maintained above 95%.25
4. Chest physiotherapy
The function of chest physiotherapy is to assist in the removal of tracheobronchial
secretions resulting in an increase gas exchange and reduction in the work of breathing.
However, trials have found no clinically discernible benefit or impact of chest
physiotherapy on the course of illness in bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia,
bronchiolitis, asthma, acute atelectasis, inhaled foreign body and post extubation
performed in pneumonia
26 There is no evidence to suggest that chest physiotherapy should be routinely
In children with mild pneumonia, their breathing is fast but there is no chest indrawing.
Oral antibiotics at an appropriate dose for an adequate duration is effective for treatment
27, 28, 29, 30, 31.
the child appears to deteriorate.
The mother is advised to return in two days for reassessment or earlier if
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We thank the following for their support:
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 Clinical features strongly suggestive of streptococcal pharyngitis
Table 2 Recommended antibiotic therapy in GABHS pharyngitis
Table 3 Categories of infants at high risk for sever respiratory distress
Table 4 Guideline for hospital admission in viral bronchiolitis
Table 5 Modes of oxygen delivery to infants
Table 6 Pathogens causing pneumonia
Table 7 Definition of tachypnoea
Table 8 Assessment of pneumonia in infants below 2 months
Table 9 Assessment of pneumonia in children aged 2 months to 5 years
Table 10 Susceptibility (%) pattern of
Table 11 Predominant bacterial pathogens of children and the recommended antimicrobial
agents to be used.
Table 12 Commonly used antibiotics and their dosages
Streptococcus pneumoniae found in Malaysia
LIST OF ALGORITHMS
Algorithm 1 Approach to differential diagnosis of acute onset stridor
Algorithm 2 Management of viral croup