Pneumonia, Adult

ExitCare ImagePneumonia is an infection of the lungs.


Pneumonia may be caused by bacteria or a virus. Usually, these infections are caused by breathing infectious particles into the lungs (respiratory tract).


  • Cough.

  • Fever.

  • Chest pain.

  • Increased rate of breathing.

  • Wheezing.

  • Mucus production.


If you have the common symptoms of pneumonia, your caregiver will typically confirm the diagnosis with a chest X-ray. The X-ray will show an abnormality in the lung (pulmonary infiltrate) if you have pneumonia. Other tests of your blood, urine, or sputum may be done to find the specific cause of your pneumonia. Your caregiver may also do tests (blood gases or pulse oximetry) to see how well your lungs are working.


Some forms of pneumonia may be spread to other people when you cough or sneeze. You may be asked to wear a mask before and during your exam. Pneumonia that is caused by bacteria is treated with antibiotic medicine. Pneumonia that is caused by the influenza virus may be treated with an antiviral medicine. Most other viral infections must run their course. These infections will not respond to antibiotics.


A pneumococcal shot (vaccine) is available to prevent a common bacterial cause of pneumonia. This is usually suggested for:

  • People over 65 years old.

  • Patients on chemotherapy.

  • People with chronic lung problems, such as bronchitis or emphysema.

  • People with immune system problems.

If you are over 65 or have a high risk condition, you may receive the pneumococcal vaccine if you have not received it before. In some countries, a routine influenza vaccine is also recommended. This vaccine can help prevent some cases of pneumonia. You may be offered the influenza vaccine as part of your care.

If you smoke, it is time to quit. You may receive instructions on how to stop smoking. Your caregiver can provide medicines and counseling to help you quit.


  • Cough suppressants may be used if you are losing too much rest. However, coughing protects you by clearing your lungs. You should avoid using cough suppressants if you can.

  • Your caregiver may have prescribed medicine if he or she thinks your pneumonia is caused by a bacteria or influenza. Finish your medicine even if you start to feel better.

  • Your caregiver may also prescribe an expectorant. This loosens the mucus to be coughed up.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not smoke. Smoking is a common cause of bronchitis and can contribute to pneumonia. If you are a smoker and continue to smoke, your cough may last several weeks after your pneumonia has cleared.

  • A cold steam vaporizer or humidifier in your room or home may help loosen mucus.

  • Coughing is often worse at night. Sleeping in a semi-upright position in a recliner or using a couple pillows under your head will help with this.

  • Get rest as you feel it is needed. Your body will usually let you know when you need to rest.


  • Your illness becomes worse. This is especially true if you are elderly or weakened from any other disease.

  • You cannot control your cough with suppressants and are losing sleep.

  • You begin coughing up blood.

  • You develop pain which is getting worse or is uncontrolled with medicines.

  • You have a fever.

  • Any of the symptoms which initially brought you in for treatment are getting worse rather than better.

  • You develop shortness of breath or chest pain.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.