If a chlamydial organism caused the preemie’s pneumonia, they may also exhibit conjunctivitis and eosinophilia–a condition marked by an increased number of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell.
Important note: Although bacterial infection is the common cause of neonatal pneumonia, some types of viruses and even fungi can also cause it.
By default, babies are already “immunocompromised.” This means that they have less protection from various illnesses and infections compared to older people who have a fully-functioning immune system.
Now, a premature baby has a weaker immunity than a full-term newborn. This makes them even more prone to developing neonatal pneumonia. The same is true for babies who have disorders affecting their immune systems.
Additionally, the following factors also heighten the risk as they increase the baby’s exposure to the different pneumonia-causing organisms:
- Complicated or prolonged labor
- Membrane-rupture more than 18 hours before giving birth
- Maternal infections
- Underdeveloped immunity
- Environmental factors (for community-acquired)
Signs and Symptoms
Since pneumonia is an infection that involves the lungs, a newborn may manifest the following signs and symptoms:
Distressed Respiratory Status
Preemies with pneumonia may experience rapid breathing (primary sign). During a physical examination by a doctor, they may also produce sounds like wheezing or grunting during respiration.
Because the lungs are affected, babies may also have difficulty breathing. Doctors and caregivers will notice this when they see the following:
- Movement of muscles between the ribs
- Belly breathing
- Flaring of nostrils
Change in the Respiratory Secretions
Newborns with pneumonia may also exhibit changes in their respiratory secretions. Mostly these changes involve an increase in quantity and change in consistency and color. With pneumonia, the respiratory secretions may become brownish and thick.
General Symptoms of Illness
Due to the infection, preemies may also manifest:
- Instability in temperature; they may develop a fever
- Less activity
- Poor feeding
Note that parents should be careful with poor feeding as it may lead to dehydration. Finally, in some cases, the baby may show signs of oxygen deprivation like bluish or greyish lips and fingernails.