Community-acquired pneumonia in children: issues in optimizing antibacterial treatment

Paediatr Drugs. 2003;5(12):821-32. doi: 10.2165/00148581-200305120-00005.


The treatment of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in children is empirical, being based on the knowledge of the etiology of CAP at different ages. As a result of currently available methods in everyday clinical practice, a microbe-specific diagnosis is not realistic in the majority of patients. Even the differentiation between viral, 'atypical' bacterial (Mycoplasma pneumoniae or Chlamydia pneumoniae) and 'typical' bacterial (Streptococcus pneumoniae) CAP is often not possible. Moreover, up to one-third of CAP cases seem to be mixed viral-bacterial or dual bacterial infections. Recent serologic studies have confirmed that S. pneumoniae is an important causative agent of CAP at all ages. M. pneumoniae is common from the age of 5 years onwards, and C. pneumoniae is common from the age of 10 years onwards. In addition to age, the etiology and treatment of CAP are dependent on the severity of the disease. Pneumococcal infections are predominant in children treated in hospital, and mycoplasmal infections are predominant in children treated at home.In ambulatory patients with CAP, amoxicillin (or penicillin V [phenoxymethylpenicillin]) is the drug of choice from the age of 4 months to 4 years, and at all ages if S. pneumoniae is the presumptive causative organism. Macrolides, preferably clarithromycin or azithromycin, are the first-line drugs from the age of 5 years onwards. In hospitalized patients who need parenteral therapy for CAP, cefuroxime (or penicillin G [benzylpenicillin]) is the drug of choice. Macrolides should be administered concomitantly if M. pneumoniae or C. pneumoniae infection is suspected. Radiologic findings and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels offer limited help for the selection of antibacterials; alveolar infiltrations and high CRP levels indicate pneumococcal pneumonia, but the lack of these findings does not rule out bacterial CAP. Most guidelines recommend antibacterials for 7-10 days (except azithromycin, which has a recommended treatment duration of 5 days). If no improvement takes place within 2 days, therapy must be reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Ampicillin / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Azithromycin / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / classification
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / drug therapy
  • Community-Acquired Infections* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pneumonia* / classification
  • Pneumonia* / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia* / etiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ampicillin
  • Azithromycin