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Treating Pneumonia


Treatment for pneumonia involves curing the infection and preventing complications. People who have community-acquired pneumonia usually can be treated at home with medication. Although most symptoms ease in a few days or weeks, the feeling of tiredness can persist for a month or more.

Specific treatments depend on the type and severity of your pneumonia, your age and your overall health. The options include:

•Antibiotics. These medicines are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. It may take time to identify the type of bacteria causing your pneumonia and to choose the best antibiotic to treat it. If your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may recommend a different antibiotic.
•Fever reducers. These include drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
•Cough medicine. This medicine may be used to calm your cough so that you can rest. Because coughing helps loosen and move fluid from your lungs, it’s a good idea not to eliminate your cough completely.


You may need to be hospitalized if:

•You are older than age 65
•You become confused about time, people or places
•Your nausea and vomiting prevent you from keeping down oral antibiotics
•Your blood pressure drops
•Your breathing is rapid
•You need breathing assistance
•Your temperature is below normal
•Your heart rate is below 50 or higher than 100

You may be admitted to the intensive care unit if you need to be placed on a breathing machine (ventilator) or if your symptoms are severe.

Children may be hospitalized if they:

•Are younger than age 2 months
•Are excessively sleepy
•Have trouble breathing
•Have low blood oxygen levels
•Appear dehydrated
•Have a lower than normal temperature

These tips can help you recover more quickly and decrease your risk of complications:

•Get plenty of rest. Don’t go back to school or work until after your temperature returns to normal and you stop coughing up mucus. Even when you start to feel better, be careful not to overdo it. Because pneumonia can recur, it’s better not to jump back into your routine until you are fully recovered. Ask your doctor if you’re not sure.
•Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help loosen mucus in your lungs.
•Take your medicine as prescribed. Take the entire course of any medications your doctor prescribed for you. If you stop medication too soon, your lungs may continue to harbor bacteria that can multiply and cause your pneumonia to recur

To help prevent pneumonia:

•Don’t smoke. Smoking damages your lungs’ natural defenses against respiratory infections.
•Get vaccinated. Vaccines are available to prevent some types of pneumonia and the flu. Talk with your doctor about getting these shots.
•Children need vaccinated too. Doctors recommend a different pneumonia vaccine for children younger than age 2 and for children ages 2-5 years who are at particular risk of pneumococcal disease. Children who attend a group child care center should also get the vaccine. Doctors also recommend flu shots for children older than 6 months.
•Practice good hygiene. To protect yourself against respiratory infections that sometimes lead to pneumonia, wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
•Stay healthy in order to keep your immune system strong. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.