Specialists said the rise in cases was concerning because the affected children were now also at risk of developing serious Covid-19 due to weakened lungs.
They will need to be extremely careful during recovery, experts said.
“We have had a 30% increase in such cases since the start of November, which is more than usual,” said Columbia Asia hospital’s paediatrician Ganesh Bagde.
Pneumonia tends to disproportionately affect children as they breathe faster than adults and are closer to the ground, where concentration of pollutants is high. Bagde recommended flu shots to prevent the illness.
“Flu vaccines can help build immunity against common viral pneumonia. The shots can even provide some cross protection against Covid too.”
Both non-Covid and Covid pneumonia are not particularly life threatening.
“In fact, bacterial pneumonia is far more dangerous,” Bagde said. Sassoon hospital’s paediatrician Aarti Kinikar said, “As per our records, non-Covid pneumonia cases in children increased in October and November. The trend has continued in December. Ours is also referral hospital, so we are getting patients from rural areas as well.”
Kinikar said, “Good nutrition and age-specific vaccination are key to ward off pneumonia. Use of masks and respiratory etiquettes among adults, especially around children, are important too.”
Bharati hospital’s paediatrician Jitendra Oswal explained the difference between bacterial and viral pneumonia. “There are some tell-tale signs. In viral pneumonia, there is a lot of wheezing because lung airways narrow due to inflammation. This causes a bad cough. But unlike viral pneumonia caused by seasonal viruses, wheezing is not commonly seen in Covid-pneumonia, in which breathlessness is one of the main symptoms.
He added, “In bacterial pneumonia, there is high-grade fever but comparatively less cough. Children often get viral pneumonia than bacterial.”
There are three predominantly seasonal viruses that sicken children and cause pneumonia, especially during winter: the adenovirus, metapneumovirus and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV. The typical bacteria which cause pneumonia are Streptococcus pneumoniae, staphylococcus and Haemophilus influenza B (HIB), Oswal said.