Treating pneumococcal infections 

The treatment you receive depends on whether you have an invasive or non-invasive pneumococcal infection. Antibiotics are often used to treat a serious infection.

Non-invasive pneumococcal infections

Non-invasive pneumococcal infections, such as sinusitis or bronchitis, will usually clear up within a week without the need for treatment.

Drinking plenty of fluids, getting plenty of rest and taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, should help relieve your symptoms.

Read more information about treating specific types of pneumococcal infection:

Invasive pneumococcal infections 

If you have an invasive pneumococcal infection, such as pneumonia, a decision will be made about whether you are well enough to be treated at home or need to be admitted to hospital.

Most GPs use a scoring system, known as the CRB-65 score, to assess the potential seriousness of a case of pneumonia.

  • C stands for confusion – if you are mentally confused, you may have a more serious infection.
  • R stands for respiratory rate – your respiratory rate is how many breaths you take in a minute. More than 30 breaths a minute may be a sign that your lungs are not working properly.
  • B stands for blood pressure – low blood pressure can be a sign of a more serious infection.
  • 65 indicates whether you are 65 years of age or over – older people are more vulnerable to infections.

Each of the above criteria is given a score of either 0 or 1, depending on whether or not it is applicable. The scoring system is explained below: 

  • A CRB-65 score of 0 means you have a low risk of complications and can usually be treated at home.
  • A CRB-65 score of 1-2 means you have a medium risk of developing complications, and you should have a same-day assessment by an expert in treating pneumonia. Depending on the results of the assessment, you may be treated at home or be admitted to hospital.
  • A CRB-65 score of 3 or more means you have a high risk of developing complications and you should be admitted to hospital for urgent treatment.

Hospital admission is also recommended for:

  • any type of invasive pneumococcal infection that has developed in a baby or child younger than two years of age
  • all cases of suspected meningitis

Treatment at home

If you are being treated at home, you will usually be prescribed a seven-day course of antibiotics and asked to get plenty of rest and fluids.

It's very important to finish your course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. Not completing the full course of antibiotics could cause the pneumonia to return.

Treatment at hospital

If your symptoms are moderate, you can usually be treated with antibiotic tablets.

If your symptoms are severe, you will usually be given antibiotics through a drip into your arm. You may also be given fluids to stop you becoming dehydrated, and oxygen to help you breathe.

Depending on how well you respond to treatment, it may be possible to switch from a drip to antibiotic tablets after a few days.

Most people who are treated in hospital require a 7-10 day course of antibiotics. The time it will take before you are well enough to return home will depend on your general state of health and whether you experience a more serious type of pneumococcal infection, such as meningitis. 

Follow-up

It's usually recommended that you attend a follow-up examination six weeks after the start of your symptoms. This is to check that the infection has not caused any serious or permanent damage to the affected parts of your body, such as your lungs.

The follow-up examination usually involves taking a chest X-ray so the state of your lungs can be assessed.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2014

Next review due: 19/08/2017