700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

White Lung Pneumonia: Clearing the Air

Dec 12, 2023
doctor listening to a young girl's lungs with a stethoscope

As the winter months come around, there is always an uptick in respiratory illnesses. You may have heard of another one to contend with: white lung pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that affects one or both lungs, leading to the filling of air sacs with fluid. It is commonly developed after a viral or bacterial infection and, in some cases, fungi. However, “white lung” is not a recognized medical term or condition. Pneumonia-infected lungs may exhibit white areas on or around them in X-rays. Typically, healthy lung tissue appears black on X-rays due to their air content.

Severity of pneumonia varies, with cases often falling into the category of “walking pneumonia”, characterized by mild symptoms that don’t necessarily require hospitalization or bed rest. Common symptoms include: sore throat, fatigue, low grade fever, coughing, sneezing and chest discomfort. However, pneumonia poses a significant risk for young children and individuals with compromised immune systems.

The Contagious Nature of Pneumonia

Respiratory viruses, including those causing pneumonia, often follow a seasonal pattern, making children more susceptible in the fall and winter. Bacterial and viral pneumonia can be contagious and typically transmitted through coughing, sneezing or close contact with an infected person. On the other hand, fungal pneumonia is not contagious.

Preventative Measures

Preventing pneumonia involves adopting necessary precautions to protect your child’s health. Encourage regular handwashing, practice coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when feeling unwell and ensuring immunizations (including RSV for children younger than 19 months) are up to date. These simple yet effective measures can significantly reduce the risk of respiratory infections leading to pneumonia.

Treatment Options

In the event of pneumonia, treatment options vary based on the type of infection. Bacterial pneumonia is typically treated with antibiotics, while antiviral medications are used for viral pneumonia. Fungal pneumonia is treated with medications targeting the specific fungus causing the infection. Over-the-counter medications can help manage symptoms such as muscle aches and fever.

Additional home remedies, including the use of humidifiers and breathing steam from a hot shower, can provide relief. For young children over one year old, honey in a warm drink may also prove beneficial.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If your child has the flu, a cold or other respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of pneumonia. Contact your healthcare team if you notice symptoms such as difficulty breathing, persistent cough, chest pain, loss of appetite, shaking or chills, muscle aches, nausea or vomiting, or fever. If symptoms continue to worsen or if a cough persists beyond 7 to 10 days, medical attention should be sought as this may indicate the need for pneumonia testing.

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Eric Mull
Eric Mull, DO
Pulmonary Medicine

Eric Mull, DO is a part of the Pulmonary Medicine Physician Team at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.