The type of treatment used for pneumonia will depend on certain factors, such as the cause of the illness and the severity of your symptoms. In most cases, it can be treated at home with lots of rest and fluids. Cases that are more serious may require treatment in the hospital. Antibiotics will only be prescribed if your pneumonia is caused by bacteria.
How Is Pneumonia Treated?
When a person is diagnosed with pneumonia, the specific treatment recommended will depend on several factors, including what is thought to be causing the infection, how serious the symptoms are, and what other medical conditions a person has. When treating pneumonia, the goals are to cure the infection and prevent complications.
Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home; however, more serious cases can require time in the hospital.
Are Antibiotics Needed to Treat Pneumonia?
Whether antibiotics are prescribed as part of pneumonia treatment will depend on what the healthcare provider believes is causing the infection.
For bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics often will be prescribed (see Antibiotics and Pneumonia). They should be taken exactly as your healthcare provider directs and for the entire period, even when you start to feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, the pneumonia may come back.
Viral pneumonia isn't treated with antibiotics. These drugs don't work when a virus causes the pneumonia. If you have viral pneumonia, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat it. The condition usually improves in one to three weeks.
How Long Do Symptoms Last?
A person with pneumonia usually starts to feel better three to five days after the medicines are started and can usually return to normal activities within a week. Tiredness and a mild cough can take longer to get better -- in some cases, taking upwards of a month or longer.
People who are treated in the hospital for pneumonia may need at least three weeks before they can go back to their normal routines.
Mandell LA, Wunderink RG, Anzueto A, et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America/American Thoracic Society consensus guidelines on the management of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. Clin Infect Dis. 2007;44 Suppl 2:S27.
Niederman MS, Mandell LA, Anzueto A, et al. Guidelines for the management of adults with community-acquired pneumonia. Diagnosis, assessment of severity, antimicrobial therapy, and prevention. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001;163:1730.
Levison M. Pneumonia, including necrotizing pulmonary infections (lung abscess). In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 13th ed. New York (NY): McGraw-Hill;1994.
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