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Pneumonia (Adult)

Pneumonia is an infection deep within the lung, in the small air sacs (alveoli). It may be due to a virus or bacteria and is usually treated with an antibiotic. Severe cases require treatment in the hospital. Milder cases can be treated at home. Symptoms usually start to improve 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:

  • Rest at home for the first 2–3 days or until you feel stronger. When resuming activity, don’t let yourself become overly tired.

  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke (yours or others).

  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control fever or pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.] (Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 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.

  • Keep well hydrated by drinking 6–8 glasses of fluids per day (water, sport drinks such as Gatorade, sodas without caffeine, juices, tea, soup, etc.). This will help loosen secretions in the lung, making it easier for you to cough up the phlegm (sputum). If you also have heart or kidney disease, check with your doctor before you drink extra amounts of fluids.

  • Finish all antibiotic medicine prescribed, even if you are feeling better after a few days.

Follow Up

with your doctor in the next 2–3 days (or as advised) to be sure you are responding properly to the medicine.

[NOTE: If you are age 65 or older, or if you have chronic lung disease (asthma, emphysema or COPD), we recommend the pneumococcal vaccination and a yearly influenza vaccination (flu-shot) every autumn. Ask your doctor about this.]

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Not getting better within the first 48 hours of treatment

  • Increasing shortness of breath or rapid breathing (over 25 breaths/minute)

  • Coughing up blood or increasing chest pain with breathing

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) oral or higher, not better with fever medication

  • Increasing weakness, dizziness or fainting

  • Increasing thirst or dry mouth

  • Sinus pain, headache or a stiff neck

  • Chest pain not caused by coughing

 

 
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