Chest X-Rays for children with pneumonia


Pneumonia, X-Rays

Not all types of pneumonia are the same. The one that our children catch at school or from family members, of mild to moderate severity, does not result in complications. For this type of pneumonia, performing a chest x-ray on the child is unnecessary. Visits to the paediatrician and home treatment is all that is needed to heal the child. Hospitalisation is unnecessary. In fact, pneumonia that afflicts healthy children who are not predisposed to respiratory illnesses is caused by an acute lung infection and goes away without complications.

The not so easy task of the family paediatrician or emergency worker lies in quickly making a correct diagnosis of the type of lung infection underway, in order to immediately begin treatment. For this, however, an x-ray is not helpful as it doesn’t provide information for the diagnosis, which instead depends on the child’s age, severity of the symptoms and nature of the infection. Sometimes the paediatrician orders a chest x-ray to confirm that there is pneumonia, or because he/she hopes to understand whether it is viral or bacterial. This is information that the x-ray does not provide.

Advice from Altroconsumo

- Gain a good understanding, by thoroughly discussing with the paediatrician, whether the laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures are absolutely necessary in deciding treatment.
- If the paediatrician suspects seasonal pneumonia, manageable in the doctor’s office, it is not necessary to have laboratory tests or x-rays.
- Keep in mind that the child’s age is very important as it helps to understand the possible origin of the pneumonia and, therefore, how to orient treatment. A viral infection, indeed, is more frequent in the first two years of life. Afterwards, it is more likely to be a bacterial infection, probably streptococcus pneumoniae, followed by mycoplasma and chlamydia pneumoniae.
- Do not routinely take chest exams to check whether the child is recovering from pneumonia or to check whether he/she has healed over time.

Questions to your doctor

If the doctor prescribes a test, medication or surgery for your child, remember that “Doing more does not mean doing better” and ask:

  • Does he really need this exam/treatment?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there simpler and safer alternatives?
  • What happens if he doesn’t take this exam/treatment?

Download the document and bring it to your doctor to discuss

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In collaboration with

ACO - Associazione Culturale Pediatri

The information available in this tool is a clue to talk to your doctor or trusted professional. It is not a substitute for information and advice that you can get by contacting them directly.

To find out more and to know the sources used, consult the Altroconsumo website and the Choosing Wisely Italy website