HealthDoctor Karen

Toddler has a chesty cough – could it be pneumonia?

Doctor KarenBy Dr. Karen Palmer
Toddler has a chesty cough – could it be pneumonia?

Dear Karen

My six-month-old son has had a chesty cough for two or three days. His four-year-old brother had pneumonia last winter and now I am nervous with all chest infections.  Can you advise me?

KAREN SAYS: It sounds like you got a nasty scare with your four-year-old son! It is very difficult to be precise but here are a couple of pointers for a child who is sick with pneumonia.

Generally, a pneumonia starts with flu-like symptoms but gets worse.
Your child may be lethargic, have poor energy and poor appetite.
Excessive irritability may be a feature. 

Looking at your son there may be some signs. 

He may be pale and weak.
Flaring of his nostrils and visibly rapid breathing with the use of his tummy muscles is not a good sign.

Trust your instincts, if your baby has a head cold and a cough but is otherwise well, he is probably well able to cope with the infection.  However, a child who is knocked out of his general routine and is very sick needs to be checked out.



Dear Karen

I am 34 and was thinking of getting a general check-up. What’s your advice?

KAREN SAYS: Most GP practices have executive healthcare packages that include:

Full history of any presenting complaints.
Smoking status and alcohol intake.
Background medical history.
List of meds, drug allergies.
General examination including BMI.
Visual test including colour vision testing.
Fasting bloods.
ECG (electrocardiogram).

My advice is if you have a couple of concerns and want time to get them properly addressed this is probably a good option to consider. A consultation is 10 or 15 minutes and there is not enough time to address more than one or two concerns properly.

It is also no harm to get an overview of your BMI and your baseline bloods to assess cardiovascular risk. It may give you an opportunity to change your lifestyle.