Pneumonia - Treatment 

Treating pneumonia 

Mild cases of pneumonia can usually be treated at home with antibiotics and plenty of rest and fluids. More severe cases may need hospital treatment.

Treatment at home

You may continue to cough for two to three weeks after finishing your course of antibiotics, and feel tired for even longer, as your body continues to recover.

Tell your GP if your symptoms don't get better within two days of starting treatment. Your symptoms may not have improved because:

  • the bacteria causing the infection may be resistant to antibiotics your doctor may change to a different antibiotic, or may start treating you with a second antibiotic while you continue to take the first one
  • a virus may be causing the infection, rather than bacteria  antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and your body's immune system will have to fight the viral infection by creating antibodies

Treatment in hospital

You may need hospital treatment if your symptoms are severe. This includes antibiotics and fluids given intravenously through a drip, or oxygen to help breathing.

In very serious cases of pneumonia, breathing may need to be assisted through a ventilator in an intensive care unit (ICU).

Read more about the complications of pneumonia.

Self-help

The steps below may help ease your symptoms.

You can take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce fever. However, you should not take ibuprofen if you:

Cough medicines are not recommended. Coughing lets you clear mucus from your lungs, so trying to stop your cough could make the infection last longer.

Also, there is little evidence that cough medicines are effective. A warm drink of honey and lemon can help relieve the discomfort caused by coughing.

Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and get plenty of rest to help your body recover.

If you smoke, it's more important than ever to stop, as smoking damages your lungs. Read information and tips on how to stop smoking.

Pneumonia is not usually passed from one person to another, so it is safe to be around others, including family members. However, it is sensible for those with weakened immune systems to avoid a person with pneumonia until they start to get better.

Once your symptoms improve, it may take a while for you to fully recover, and your coughing may continue for some time. Speak to your GP if you are concerned.

After treatment

Your GP will probably ask to see you again around six weeks after you start your antibiotics.

In some cases, they may arrange follow-up tests, such as a chest X-ray, if:

  • your symptoms have not improved
  • your symptoms have come back
  • you smoke
  • you are over the age of 50

Some people may be advised to have vaccinations against flu or pneumococcal infections after recovering from pneumonia. Read more about preventing pneumonia.

Page last reviewed: 19/06/2014

Next review due: 19/06/2016

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Comments

The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

rashkanda said on 20 September 2012

is there any side effect appear after adequate treatment of pneumonia?

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Cddouglas said on 22 March 2012

I too have also lived in the US, and found that if you can afford it, I much prefer the health care system there.

In New York, I was I'll for a week. Made appointment online for "urgent care" the next morning. Arrived, presented private insurance card, was ushered into waiting room that looked more like the lounge of a spa than a GP office with soft lighting and music, fresh floral arrangements. Asked if I would like tea, coffee, or fresh orange juice.

Waited less than five minutes, nurse ushered me to exam room, took vitals. GP came in moments later, told her my symptoms. Chest XRay done in next room, while we waited, GP administered nebulizer/broncho dilator. Radiologist spoke to GP, confirmed pneumonia. GP explained treatment, asked what chemist I preferred and electronically sent prescriptions to them.

In total, GP spent about 30 minutes with me personally, was not rushed, and left feeling very cared for. My cost was $40 US, the rest covered by private insurance. The prescriptions were filled and waiting when I arrived at the chemist.

The NHS has some wonderful GPs, and some that are not, and the same would be true anywhere else. The overall experience in the US is certainly much more pleasant though.

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Deece said on 13 March 2012

Felt increasingly dreadful over the weekend so made an appointment with my wonderful NHS GP Monday morning (today).

I was swiftly & efficiently diagnosed with what is commonly called walking pneumonia, prescribed amoxicillin, prednisolone, a ventolin inhaler & a peak flow meter.

With strict instructions to visit Casualty in the event my peak flow was 250 or less, I returned home on the promise I would return in seven days for a follow up appointment to ensure I was all clear.

Having experience of residing at length in a number of countries & receiving health care in the USA, in France, in Egypt and in the UK, I'll gratefully choose my wonderful NHS GP every single time.

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naggie said on 26 February 2012

Found this really interesting. I contracted bronchopneumonia whilst on a cruising hols in Peru - onboard doctor very good. On return advised to tell GP - may need chest xray and further care but GP was not at all interested in my further care. He implied that I should "go away and stop wasting his time".

Thank goodness there was a doctor on board who was able to treat me correctly. Hurrah for the NHS which treats patients so abominably.

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Aspiration pneumonia

If you have breathed in an object that is causing your pneumonia, it may need to be removed.

The doctor may do this by using a tube to look into the airways in your lungs, and then removing the inhaled object. This is called a bronchoscopy.

Useful links

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are medications that are used to treat, and in some cases prevent, bacterial infections