Pneumonia is a term used to describe inflammation of the lungs. It is usually caused by a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. Pneumonia often starts with symptoms similar to that of a cold and gradually worsens. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, wheezing, chest pain, tiredness, muscle pain, headache and difficulty breathing. Children with pneumonia may experience weight loss due to a lack of appetite and increased energy expenditure due to limited oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Therefore, it is important to provide your child with nutritious, high-calorie, high-protein foods to maintain her nutritional status and prevent complications.
Adequate fluids are vital for a child with pneumonia. You need to make sure your child drinks clear fluids and does not become dehydrated. Infants under the age of 12 months should continue to drink breast milk or formula. If your child is 1-year-old or older, offer him whole milk. Clear liquids include water, ice chips, fruit juices, non-caffeinated soft drinks, sports beverages, gelatin and popsicles. In particular, tea, lemonade, apple juice and warm chicken broth help to relax the airways and clear mucus. Eating and drinking may cause your child to become tired easily, so offer small amounts of foods and liquids more often than usual.
High-Calorie, High-Protein Diet
According to the American Dietetic Association, a high-calorie, high-protein diet benefits your child by giving her body energy, preventing weight loss, helping her body heal and promoting a healthy immune system. Aim to provide her with at least six meals and snacks each day to increase her caloric intake. Offer your child high-calorie drinks such as whole milk, 100 percent juice and regular soft drinks. You can also add protein powder to your child's beverages. Choose high-fat, high-protein foods including meat, poultry and fish; eggs; beans; high-fat cheeses; and meal replacement shakes and bars. You can also increase calories by adding oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing and peanut butter to various foods.
Fruits, Vegetables and Other Nutrient Sources
Fruits, vegetables and grains provide an array of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Choose brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, oranges, apples and melon. Whole grains such as fortified breakfast cereal, whole wheat bread, pasta and rice provide your child with selenium and zinc, which can help protect him from free radical damage. Dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cheese and eggs provide the body with probiotics and vitamin E. While probiotics help restore the natural bacterial balance in the body, vitamin E functions as a powerful antioxidant. Again, to increase your child's calorie intake, add cheese, butter or oil to vegetables, offer starchy vegetables higher in calories and choose fruits canned in syrup instead of water.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends a number of other potential remedies. Honey is an effective over-the-counter remedy for relieving coughing and a sore throat. Add honey to warm herbal tea or water for a soothing drink. Honey is not considered safe for children under the age of 1, though. Quercetin is an antioxidant that provides fruits and vegetables with their vibrant colors. Preliminary studies suggest that it may inhibit the production and release of histamine, a compound found in the body responsible for allergic symptoms. Other herbs known to relieve respiratory symptoms and open passages are peppermint, eucalyptus and thyme. Consult your pediatrician before using an herbal supplement for your child with pneumonia.
- University of Minnesota Medical Center: Pneumonia in Children
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Pneumonia – Children – Discharge
- American Dietetic Association: High-Calorie, High-Protein Nutritional Therapy
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cough
- Queen Mary Hospital Department of Dietetics: Basic Nutritional Guidelines for the Prevention of Atypical Pneumonia