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Pneumonia (Adult)

Pneumonia is an infection deep within the lungs. It is in the small air sacs (alveoli). Pneumonia may be caused by a virus or bacteria. Pneumonia caused by bacteria is usually treated with an antibiotic. Severe cases may need to be treated in the hospital. Milder cases can be treated at home. Symptoms usually start to get better during the first 2 days of treatment.

Illustration showing the position of the lungs and bronchial tubes, with a close up view of an air sac.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Rest at home for the first 2 to 3 days, or until you feel stronger. Don’t let yourself get overly tired when you go back to your activities.

  • Stay away from cigarette smoke – yours or other people’s.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control fever or pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding. Don’t give aspirin to anyone younger than 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.

  • Your appetite may be poor, so a light diet is fine.

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids every day to make sure you are getting enough fluids. Beverages can include water, sport drinks, sodas without caffeine, juices, tea, or soup. Fluids will help loosen secretions in the lung. This will make it easier for you to cough up the phlegm (sputum). If you also have heart or kidney disease, check with your health care provider before you drink extra fluids.

  • Take antibiotic medicine prescribed until it is all gone, even if you are feeling better after a few days.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your health care provider in the next 2 to 3 days, or as advised. This is to be sure the medicine is helping you get better.

If you are 65 or older, you should get a pneumococcal vaccine and a yearly flu (influenza) shot. You should also get these vaccines if you have chronic lung disease like asthma, emphysema, or COPD. Ask your provider about this.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You don’t get better within the first 48 hours of treatment

  • Shortness of breath gets worse

  • Rapid breathing (more than 25 breaths per minute)

  • Coughing up blood

  • Chest pain gets worse with breathing

  • Fever of 102°F (38°C) or higher that doesn’t get better with fever medicine

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting that gets worse

  • Thirst or dry mouth that gets worse

  • Sinus pain, headache, or a stiff neck

  • Chest pain not caused by coughing

 

 
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