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Pneumonia is a common lung infection caused by germs, such as bacteria, viruses, and
fungi. It can be a complication of the flu, but other viruses, bacteria and even fungi can
cause pneumonia. Anyone can get pneumonia, but some people are more at risk than
others. Pneumonia and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Treatment depends
on the cause of your pneumonia, how severe your symptoms are, and your age and
overall health. Most healthy people recover from pneumonia in one to three weeks, but it
can be life-threatening. The good news is that pneumonia can be prevented—by getting
an annual flu shot (as flu often leads to pneumonia), frequently washing your hands, and
for people at high risk, getting a vaccine for pneumococcal pneumonia.


Many treatments for pneumonia are available. Treatment depends on the cause of your
pneumonia, how severe your symptoms are, your age and overall health. Most healthy
people recover from pneumonia in one to three weeks, but pneumonia can be life-
How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed?
 Physical exam: Your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. If you have
pneumonia, your lungs may make crackling, bubbling, and rumbling sounds when
you inhale. You also may be wheezing, and it may be hard to hear sounds of
breathing in some areas of your chest.
 Chest X-ray (if your doctor suspects pneumonia).
 Some patients may need other tests, including:
o Blood test to check white blood cell count and to try to know the germ which
may be in your blood as well.
o Arterial blood gases to see if enough oxygen is getting into your blood from
the lungs.
o CT (or CAT) scan of the chest to get a better view of the lungs.
o Sputum tests to look for the organism (that can detect in the mucus
collected from you after a deep cough) causing your symptoms.
o Pleural fluid culture if there is fluid in the space surrounding the lungs.
o Pulse oximetry to measure how much oxygen is moving through your
bloodstream, done by simply attaching a small clip to your finger for a brief
o Bronchoscopy, a procedure used to look into the lungs' airways, which
would be performed if you are hospitalized and antibiotics are not working
How Is Pneumonia Treated?
Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia you have and how severe
it is, and if you have other chronic diseases. The goals of treatment are to cure the
infection and prevent complications.
Most people can be treated at home by following these steps:
 Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen secretions and bring up phlegm.
 Get lots of rest. Have someone else do household chores.
 Do not take cough medicines without first talking to your doctor. Coughing is one
way your body works to get rid of an infection. If your cough is preventing you from
getting the rest you need, ask your doctor about steps you can take to get relief.
 Control your fever with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs,
such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen. DO NOT give aspirin to
 Make sure you take antibiotics as prescribed.
If your pneumonia becomes so severe that you are treated in the hospital, you may
receive fluids and antibiotics in your veins, oxygen therapy, and possibly breathing
treatments. You are more likely to be admitted to the hospital if you:
 Have another serious medical problem.
 Have severe symptoms.
 Are unable to care for yourself at home or are unable to eat or drink.
 Are older than 65 or a young child.
 Have been taking antibiotics at home and are not getting better.

Viral Pneumonia: Typical antibiotics will not work for viral pneumonia; sometimes,
however, your doctor may use antiviral medication. Viral pneumonia usually improves in
one to three weeks.

Bacterial Pneumonia: Patients with mild pneumonia who are otherwise healthy are
sometimes treated with oral macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin, clarithromycin, or
erythromycin). Patients with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema),
kidney disease, or diabetes are often given more powerful or higher dose antibiotics.
In addition to antibiotics, treatment includes: proper diet and oxygen to increase oxygen
in the blood when needed. In some patients, medication to ease chest pain and to provide
relief from a violent cough may be necessary.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia: These are pneumonias caused by germs intermediate

between viruses and bacteria. These are frequently mild, but occasionally can be severe
and prolonged.

Recovering from Pneumonia

A healthy young person may feel back to normal within a week of recovery from
pneumonia. For middle-aged or older people, it may be weeks before they regain their
usual strength and feeling of well-being.
A person recovering from mycoplasma pneumonia may be weak for an extended period
of time. Adequate rest is important to maintain progress toward full recovery and to avoid
relapse. Don't rush recovery!
If you have taken antibiotics, your doctor will want to make sure your chest X-ray becomes
normal again after you finish the whole prescription. It may take many weeks for your X-
ray to clear up.
Possible Pneumonia Complications
People who may be more likely to have complications from pneumonia include:
 Older adults or very young children.
 People whose immune system does not work well.
 People with other, serious medical problems such as diabetes or cirrhosis of the
Possible complications include:
 Respiratory failure, which requires a breathing machine or ventilator.
 Sepsis, a condition in which there is uncontrolled inflammation in the body, which
may lead to widespread organ failure.
 Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe form of respiratory failure.
 Lung abscesses - these are infrequent, but serious, complications of pneumonia.
They occur when pockets of pus form inside or around the lung. These may
sometimes need to be drained with surgery.

Can Pneumonia Be Prevented?
Yes. You can reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by following a few simple steps.
Here's how:

Get Vaccinated

 Get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza. The flu is a common
cause of pneumonia, so preventing the flu is a good way to prevent pneumonia.
 Children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older should get vaccinated against
pneumococcal pneumonia, a common form of bacterial pneumonia. The
pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for all children and adults who are
at increased risk of pneumococcal disease due to other health conditions. There
are two types of pneumococcal vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider to find
out if one of them is right for you.
 There are several other vaccines that can prevent infections by bacteria and
viruses that may lead to pneumonia, including pertussis, chicken pox and
measles. Please talk to your doctor about whether you and your children are up
to date on your vaccines and to determine if any of these vaccines are
appropriate for you.

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom,
diapering, and before eating or preparing foods.

Don't Smoke

Tobacco damages your lung's ability to fight off infection, and smokers have been found
to be at higher risk of getting pneumonia. Smokers are considered one of the high risk
groups that are encouraged to get the pneumococcal vaccine.
Be Aware of Your General Health

 Since pneumonia often follows respiratory infections, be aware of any symptoms

that linger more than a few days.
 Good health habits—a healthy diet, rest, regular exercise, etc.—help you from
getting sick from viruses and respiratory illnesses. They also help promote fast
recovery when you do get a cold, the flu or other respiratory illness.
If you have children, talk to their doctor about:

 Hib vaccine, which prevents pneumonia in children from Haemophilus

influenza type b
 A drug called Synagis (palivizumab), which is given to some children younger
than 24 months to prevent pneumonia caused by respiratory syncytial virus