Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Treatment for pneumonia involves curing the infection and preventing any complications.

People who have community-acquired pneumonia usually can be treated at home with medication. Although your symptoms may ease in a few days or weeks, tiredness can persist for a month or more.

Your doctor will likely recommend a follow-up chest X-ray to check that the infection is clearing. It may be safe to stop treatment even if your X-ray isn't completely normal. Only about half of chest X-rays in people with community-acquired pneumonia are normal after 28 days of treatment.

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

  • Antibiotics, 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. Symptoms often improve within three days, although improvement usually takes twice as long in smokers. If your symptoms don't improve, your doctor may recommend a different antibiotic.
  • Antiviral medications, to treat viral pneumonia. Symptoms generally improve in one to three weeks.
  • Fever reducers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Cough medicine, to calm your cough so you can rest. Because coughing helps loosen and move fluid from your lungs, it's a good idea not to eliminate your cough completely.

Hospitalization

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

If you need to be placed on a ventilator or your symptoms are severe, you may need to be admitted  to an intensive care unit.

Children may be hospitalized if they:

  • Are younger than age 3 months
  • Are excessively sleepy
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Have low blood oxygen levels
  • Appear dehydrated
  • Have a lower than normal temperature
May. 21, 2013