Legionnaires' disease is a lung infection you can catch by inhaling droplets of water from things like air conditioning or hot tubs. It's uncommon but can be very serious.
How you get Legionnaires' disease
You can catch Legionnaires' disease if you breathe in tiny droplets of water containing bacteria that cause the infection.
It's usually caught in places like hotels, hospitals or offices where the bacteria have got into the water supply. It's very rare to catch it at home.
You can catch it from things like:
- air conditioning systems
- spa pools and hot tubs
- showers, taps and toilets
You cannot usually get it from:
- drinking water containing the bacteria
- other people with the infection
- places like ponds, lakes and rivers
Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if you have a bad cough and:
- it does not go away
- you cannot breathe properly
- you have severe chest pain
- you have a high temperature or feel hot and shivery
- you feel like you have severe flu
These could be symptoms of Legionnaires' disease.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Other ways to get help
A GP may be able to help you.
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
Tell your GP where you have been in the past 10 days, such as if you stayed in a hotel, spa or hospital.
Treatment for Legionnaires' disease
You may need to go into hospital if you're diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.
Treatment in hospital may include:
- antibiotics directly into a vein
- oxygen through a face mask or tubes in your nose
- a machine to help you breathe
When you start to get better you might be able to take antibiotic tablets at home. Antibiotic treatment usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks.
Most people make a full recovery, but it might take a few weeks to feel back to normal.
Page last reviewed: 22 September 2017
Next review due: 22 September 2020