antibiotics to treat
pneumonia caused by bacteria, the most common cause of
the condition. Antibiotics have a high cure rate for pneumonia.5
Your doctor will
choose your antibiotic based on a number of things,
including your age, your symptoms and how severe they are, and whether you need
to go to the hospital. The number of days you take antibiotics depends on your general
health, how serious your pneumonia is, and the type of antibiotic you are
Most people see some
improvement in symptoms in 2 to 3 days. Unless you get worse during this time,
your doctor usually will not change your treatment for at least 3 days.
Getting started on antibiotics soon after getting pneumonia may help recovery.5
there is no improvement or if your symptoms get worse, you may need a
culture and a sensitivity test. These tests help
identify the organism that is causing your symptoms. These tests also help your
doctor find out whether the bacteria is
resistant to the antibiotic.
If you do not need to go to the
hospital for pneumonia, it is not usually necessary to identify the organism
causing the pneumonia before starting treatment. If you do go to the hospital,
you will probably have some testing to identify the bacteria.
will not have to go to the hospital unless you:
- Are older than 65.
- Have other
health problems, such as
diabetes, long-term (chronic) kidney failure, or
chronic liver disease.
- Cannot care for yourself or would not be
able to tell anyone if your symptoms got worse.
- Have severe illness
that reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your tissues.
- Have chest pain
caused by inflammation of the lining of the lung (pleurisy) so
you are not able to cough up mucus effectively and clear your
- Are being treated outside a hospital and are not getting
better (such as your shortness of breath not improving).
- Are not able to eat or keep food down, so you need to take fluids
through a vein (intravenous).
Pneumonia also can be caused by
viruses, such as those that cause the
chickenpox (varicella). Antibiotics do not work to treat pneumonia caused by a virus.
- At this time, there is no proven medicine to
treat pneumonia caused by the flu virus. Home treatment, such as rest and
taking care of your cough, is the only
- Varicella pneumonia, which is rare, can be treated with
What to think about
In most cases pneumonia is a short-term,
treatable illness. But frequent bouts of pneumonia can be a serious
complication of a long-term (chronic) illness, such as chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD). If you have a severe long-term illness, it may be
hard to treat your pneumonia, or you may choose not to treat it. You and
your doctor should discuss this. This discussion may include information about how to create an
For more information, see:
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
March 17, 2011