Pneumonia Treatment

Pneumonia (nu-MO-nya) is an infection in the lungs.  It causes the air sacs in the lungs to fill with fluid, making it hard for you to breathe.  There are different types of pneumonia.  The most common types are caused by:

  • Viruses (which cause viral pneumonia)
  • Bacteria
  • Mycoplasma (MY-ko-plaz-ma), a type of bacteria
  • Pneumocystis carinii (nu-mo-SIS-tis ka-REE-nee-eye), a type of fungus

Each type of pneumonia has different symptoms.  These may include flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Mucus
  • Blue lips or fingertips

In addition, you may also have:

  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Chills
  • Chattering teeth
  • Chest pain
  • Cough with greenish-brown or rust-colored mucus

After you have been diagnosed, your doctor may order different tests to check your condition and decide on a treatment plan. You may need to have a chest x-ray.  Your doctor may also want to check a sample of your sputum (mucus from your lungs). This will tell the doctor what type of infection you have and which medication would be helpful.  You may also have blood tests.


Your doctor will give you antibiotics (an-teeby-AW-tiks) if you have bacterial pneumonia.  Antibiotics will not work against viral pneumonia, unless you also have a bacterial infection.

Other medications your doctor may give you include:

  • Medication to relieve chest pain
  • An expectorant to help loosen mucus
  • Cough medicine to silence a dry cough (Do not take cough medicine to stop your cough if you are coughing up mucus.)
  • Inhaled medication to help open your airways
  • Oxygen

Getting Better

Here are some things you can do to help your recovery:

  • Avoid cigarette smoke, dust, and things that can irritate your lungs.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Don’t skip meals.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water, tea, or juice a day. Fluids will help thin and loosen mucus.

Be sure to keep taking your medicine, even after your symptoms go away.  It may take a while before you feel strong again.

Don't Spread It

Because pneumonia is an infection, you can spread it.  Be sure to cough and sneeze into a tissue and then throw it into a plastic bag.  Always wash your hands thoroughly after coughing, sneezing, and handling tissues.

If Your Symptoms Get Worse

You should be feeling somewhat better within 48 to 72 hours after medication is given. Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms get worse:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Mucus (amount or color)
  • Blue lips or fingertips


If you have any questions about this information, call ___________________________________.
                                                                                                                                                      Reviewed 2011

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