Treating Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both of the lungs. Pneumonia:

  • Is usually caused by a virus

  • Can be very serious, especially in infants, young children, and older adults. And also in those with other long-term health problems or weakened immune systems

  • Is sometimes treated at home and sometimes in the hospital

Health care provider listening to the lungs of a woman in hospital bed.

Antibiotic Medications

Antibiotics may be prescribed or administered for pneumonia caused by bacteria. They may be pills or oral medications, or shots or injections. Or they may be given intravenously (IV) or into the vein. If you are taking oral medications at home:

  • Fill your prescription and start taking your medication as soon as you can.

  • You will likely start to feel better in a day or two, but don’t stop taking the antibiotic.

  • Use a pill organizer to help you remember to take your medication.

  • Let your health care provider know if you have side effects.

  • Take your medication exactly as directed on the label. Talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions.

Antiviral Medications

Antiviral medication may be prescribed or given for pneumonia cause by a virus. For example, antiviral medication may be prescribed for pneumonia caused by the flu virus. Antibiotics do not work against viruses. If you are taking antiviral medication at home:

  • Fill your prescription and start taking your medication as soon as you can.

  • Talk with your provider or pharmacist about possible side effects.

  • Take the medication exactly as instructed.

To Relieve Symptoms

There are many medications that can help relieve symptoms of pneumonia. Some are prescription and some are over-the-counter.

Your health care provider may recommend:

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower your fever and to lessen headache or other pain

  • Cough medication to loosen mucus or to reduce coughing

Make sure you check with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medications.

Special Treatments

If you are hospitalized for pneumonia, you may have other therapies, including:

  • Inhaled medications to help with breathing or chest congestion

  • Supplemental oxygen to increase low oxygen levels

Drink Fluids and Eat Healthy

You should eat healthy to help your body fight the infection and drink a lot of fluids to replace fluids lost from fever and to help loosen mucus in the chest.

  • Diet. Make health food choices, including fruits and vegetables, lean meats and other proteins, 100% whole grain and low- or no-fat dairy products.

  • Fluids. Drinks at least 6-8 tall glasses a day. Water and 100% fruit or vegetable juice are best.

Get Plenty of Rest and Sleep

You may be more tired than usual for a while. It is important to get enough sleep at night. And, it's important to rest during the day. Talk with your health care provider if coughing or other symptoms are interfering with your sleep.

Preventing the Spread of Germs

The best thing you can do to prevent spreading germs is to wash your hands often. You should:

  • Rub your hand with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds.

  • Clean in between your fingers, the backs of your hands, and around your nails.

  • Dry your hands on a separate towel or use paper towels.

You should also:

  • Keep alcohol-based hand cleaners nearby.

  • Make sure you also clean surfaces that you touch. Use a product that kills all types of germs.

  • Stay away from others until you are feeling better.

When to Call Your Health Care Provider

Call your health care provider if you have any of these:

  • Symptoms get worse

  • Fever continues

  • Shortness of breath gets worse

  • Increased mucus or mucus that is darker in color

  • Coughing gets worse

  • Lips or fingers are bluish in color

  • Side effects from your medication