Can children get pneumonia from sleeping with the fan on?
Is it possible for a fan to cause pneumonia in toddlers?
When we were kids, our mothers might have held certain beliefs related to illness. Sleeping under a fan will make you sick. Don’t go out with wet hair. Don’t get wet in the rain – you’ll get the flu. Is there any truth to these beliefs? One mum thinks so.
The Thai mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, shared her horrifying experience with theAsianparent Thailand. She claims that her toddler was sleeping under a fan, and allegedly got pneumonia.
Here’s her story.
The mum in Thailand believes that sleeping under a fan gave her child lung inflammation, which in turn morphed into pneumonia.
According to her, her baby is usually very healthy and hardly ever falls ill. The mum firmly believes that after her little one got the common cold, sleeping under a fan caused “inflamed lungs”, which led to pneumonia.
Apparently, the toddler spent three days hospitalised, where sputum was collected to assist with diagnosis and treatment. The doctor’s diagnosis was pneumonia, says the mum.
After treatment, the baby’s symptoms began to improve. However, the mum was advised by the doctor to keep her child on bed rest. The doctor also allegedly advised parents not to allow babies to sleep without clothing, or with the fan turned on too high.
You might be skeptical that a fan can cause such a serious condition. In fact, we are too. Which is why we thought of doing some thorough research into the topic accompanied by some myth-busting.
But first, what is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs, specifically in one or both air sacs. The sacs may become filled with pus which causes classic pneumonia symptoms in children: fever, laboured breathing and chills. Although the illness is common in children, it can have severe consequences in adults.
Many germs – including bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites – can cause pneumonia. Any person can be affected by the illness – not just the old and young. Still, people with weak immune systems and additional health issues can suffer severe complications, like respiratory failure, sepsis, and even death.
The condition can also present with a variety of symptoms, such as:
- Breathing difficulties
- A fever of 38.5 C or lower
- General feeling of discomfort, lethargy
- Symptoms similar to a flu or cold, like sore throat, chills or shaking, headache
- A persistent, dry cough, sometimes with mucus
- Rapid breathing with wheezing sounds
- Feeling pain in the stomach and chest
- Slightly green, bloody or rusty mucus
- Poor feeding (in infants) and decreased appetite (in older kids)
The symptoms of pneumonia kids vary, depending on which part of the lungs are infected. A middle or top infection may cause laboured breathing; an infection on the lower part may cause vomiting, nausea or an upset stomach.
So, the question remains. Can sleeping under a fan really cause pneumonia? What about the common cold? Here, we separate fact from fiction using science.
Many parents commonly believe that sleeping under a fan can lead to a flu or cold.
Dr Anay Bhalerao, dispels this myth, saying that while sleeping under a fan can cause congestion, crusting, or even a runny nose, it will not likely cause a cold. Common colds are caused by viruses in the air. Runny noses are not always an indication that a child is having a cold.
In fact, a runny nose, he says, can also be caused by an allergic reaction towards dust blowing from the fan or in the room.
Dr Anay also clarifies that sleeping under a fan is unlikely to give your little one pneumonia:
Poor air quality, crowding, or even dust can cause a baby to have a runny nose. Air circulation from a fan may aggravate the condition, but will not cause Pneumonia.
Conditions like Pneumonia and Flu are caused by pathogens. These pathogens spread among people from close contact. Unless the child is in contact with these pathogens and has low immunity, he will likely not develop the flu or pneumonia.
Dr Anay also recommends that parents practice basic hygiene if their baby has a runny nose, like cleaning the room, ensuring it’s well ventilated, and washing your hands before and after handling the baby. He advises that fever in a baby is a red flag to consult a doctor.
- Wash hands frequently and correctly (following the 20 second rule)
- Must avoid using the same cups, plates or utensils with a sick child
- Must have up to date immunisations to prevent other infections
- Boost a child’s immune system by allowing him to get enough sleep, adequate exercise and a healthy diet
- Encourage your child to sneeze or cough into a tissue and wash their hands thereafter
- Wear a surgical mask when they are down with the common cold or cough
- Exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life has also been found to help boost a child’s immunity.
If your child is suffering from symptoms like fever, cough or difficulty breathing, please consult a doctor without delay. They will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and provide effective treatment.
Because pneumonia is usually caused by pathogens, the best way to prevent it, is to vaccinate your child. Parents should be especially vigilant about getting their child a seasonal flu vaccine, as the flu may lead to pneumonia.
People with weak immune systems should also consider getting the pneumococcal vaccine.
Your doctor will prescribe medicine depending on the specific bacteria of virus which causes pneumonia. In general, though:
- a bacterial infection will require antibiotics to get better.
- Usually, treatment lasts from seven to 10 days.
- Note that these antibiotics must be finished as scheduled by the doctor. Incomplete intake of antibiotics affects how long it takes for the child to recover, thus prolonging the child’s discomfort and affecting his daily activities.
- a viral infection will need anti-viral medicine, since antibiotics are ineffective.
- if the viral infection isn’t severe, bed rest, balanced diets and plenty of fluids can also help improve the condition.
- Minimise contact with other children by avoiding exercise, and indoor or outdoor activities like sports or social play
You can also help speed up your child’s recovery at home by:
- Offering your child plenty of fluids, such as fruit juices or soup dishes like bee hoon soup, mee sua soup or porridge to keep them hydrated.
- Use a warm compress on the chest area if your child experiences chest pains or discomfort.
- Make sure that the child takes the prescribed medication as scheduled so that the bacteria is completely eradicated.
- Compress your child’s forehead with a cool fever patch if he has a fever. You can also wipe him with room temperature water (not iced water) to provide some comfort and relief.
- Your child may be fatigued and suffer a loss of appetite. Be patient and comfort him by being there.
This article about infant pneumonia and infant pneumonia treatment was originally written in Thai by Jazz Tulya. It was translated and further edited by Kevin Wijaya Oey, later republished with the permission of theAsianparent Thailand.
Reference: American Lung Association