A practical guide for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric pneumonia

CMAJ. 1997 Mar 1;156(5):S703-11.


Objective: To develop guidelines for the diagnosis and management of community-acquired pediatric pneumonia.

Options: Clinical assessment, radiography, laboratory testing, and empirical antimicrobial therapy.

Outcomes: Increased awareness of age-related causes, improved accuracy of clinical diagnosis, better utilization of diagnostic testing and the rational use of empirical antimicrobial therapy resulting in more rapid diagnosis, initiation of appropriate therapy and decreased morbidity and mortality.

Evidence: A MEDLINE search for relevant articles published from 1996 to September 1996 using the MeSH terms "pediatric," "pneumonia," "respiratory tract infection," "pneumonitis," "etiology," "diagnosis," "therapy," "antibiotics," "resistance," "radiology," "microbiology" and "biochemistry."

Values: A hierarchical evaluation of the strength of evidence modified from the methods of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination was used. When application of the hierarchy was not feasible or appropriate, different evaluation criteria were used.

Benefits, harms and costs: Increased awareness of the causes of pneumonia, accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment should reduce costs associated with unnecessary investigations and complications due to inappropriate treatment.

Recommendations: Age is the best predictor of the cause of pediatric pneumonia, viral pneumonia being most common during the first 2 years of life. The absence of a symptom cluster of respiratory distress, tachypnea, crackles and decreased breath sounds accurately excludes the presence of pneumonia (level II evidence). Bacterial cultures of samples from the nasopharynx and throat have no predictive value; however, Gram staining and culture of sputum from older children and adolescents are useful (level III evidence). Oral antimicrobial therapy will provide adequate coverage for most mild to moderate forms of pneumonia in children (level III evidence). Parenteral therapy is typically reserved for neonates and patients with severe pneumonia admitted to hospital (level III evidence).

Validation: These recommendations are based on consensus of Canadian experts in infectious diseases and microbiology. They are the only guidelines to address antimicrobial treatment from an age-related, etiologic perspective.

Sponsor: The development of these guidelines and the technical support and assistance of Core Health Inc. in preparing this manuscript were funded through an unrestricted educational grant from Abbott Laboratories Canada. The sponsoring company was not involved in determining the membership of the consensus group or the content of the guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community-Acquired Infections / diagnosis*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / etiology
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents