What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs caused by an infection.

How does pneumonia occur?

You may breathe in some bacteria, viruses, or other germs. If you are normally healthy, inhaling a small number of germs usually does not matter. They will be trapped in your sputum and killed by your immune system. Sometimes the germs multiply and cause lung infections.

How serious is pneumonia?

With treatment, many patients make a full recovery. However, some bacteria, viruses, and other germs are more serious than others. Some people become very ill and require hospital admission.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Cough, fever, fast breathing, sweats, shivers, being off your food and feeling generally unwell are the common symptoms. Headaches and aches and pains are common.

What is the treatment for pneumonia?

Treatment at home
Treatment at home may be fine, if you are normally well and the pneumonia is not severe.
An antibiotic such as amoxicillin is prescribed when pneumonia is suspected. Amoxicillin is usually effective against the most common causes. If it doesn’t seem to be effective and your doctor suspects a less common bacterium, they may change it.
If you are allergic to penicillin (amoxicillin is a type of penicillin) your doctor will prescribe an alternative that works just as well.
Symptoms should improve after 3 days if the treatment is working. Have lots to drink, to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Take regular paracetamol to ease fever and headaches.
Let a doctor know if symptoms do not improve over the following two days.

Hospital treatment

Hospital admission may be advised if you have severe pneumonia, or if symptoms do not improve 48 hours after you have started antibiotic treatment. Also, you are more likely to be treated in hospital if you are already in poor health, or if an infection with a more serious infecting germ is suspected.

  • A chest X-ray may be taken to see the extent of the infection.
  • Blood tests and sputum tests may be taken
  • Sometimes oxygen and other supportive treatments are needed if you have severe pneumonia. Those who become severely unwell may need treatment in a critical care unit.
  • When you return home, even though the infection is treated, you may feel tired and unwell for some time.

Can pneumonia be prevented?

Routine immunization against the pneumococcus (the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia) and the annual influenza (flu) virus immunization are advised.