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How Is Pneumonia Treated?

Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia you have and how severe it is. Most people who have community-acquired pneumonia—the most common type of pneumonia—are treated at home.

The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications.

General Treatment

If you have pneumonia, follow your treatment plan, take all medicines as prescribed, and get ongoing medical care. Ask your doctor when you should schedule followup care. Your doctor may want you to have a chest x ray to make sure the pneumonia is gone.

Although you may start feeling better after a few days or weeks, fatigue (tiredness) can persist for up to a month or more. People who are treated in the hospital may need at least 3 weeks before they can go back to their normal routines.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is treated with medicines called antibiotics. You should take antibiotics as your doctor prescribes. You may start to feel better before you finish the medicine, but you should continue taking it as prescribed. If you stop too soon, the pneumonia may come back.

Most people begin to improve after 1 to 3 days of antibiotic treatment. This means that they should feel better and have fewer symptoms, such as cough and fever.

Viral Pneumonia

Antibiotics don't work when the cause of pneumonia is a virus. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat it.

Viral pneumonia usually improves in 1 to 3 weeks.

Treating Severe Symptoms

You may need to be treated in a hospital if:

  • Your symptoms are severe
  • You're at risk for complications because of other health problems

If the level of oxygen in your bloodstream is low, you may receive oxygen therapy. If you have bacterial pneumonia, your doctor may give you antibiotics through an intravenous (IV) line inserted into a vein.

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March 1, 2011