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Claudia Jackson (RN)
Dr Waseem Mohi
Next Review: Sep 1, 2025
Pneumonia is not a single disease symptom, but a group of symptoms causing inflammation of one or both lungs. In pneumonia there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen that blood can absorb from air breathed into the lung.
It is usually caused by infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.
Pneumonia causes the air sacs in the lungs to fill with pus and fluid making breathing difficult. It can range in severity from mild to life-threatening and is most dangerous for babies and young children, people over 65, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic health conditions.
Common symptoms of pneumonia include:
Less common symptoms of pneumonia include:
Most pneumonia are caused by bacteria, but it may also be caused by viruses like RSV, coronavirus. These types of pneumonia are known as community-acquired pneumonia as they are passed from person to person in the community.
Some other types of pneumonia include:
Is pneumonia contagious?
Viral and bacterial pneumonia are contagious (can be spread from person to person). Pneumonia is spread by:
Fungal pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia are not contagious.
Pneumonia is a serious condition and can be life-threatening.
If you have symptoms of pneumonia you must see a doctor as soon as possible.
Call an ambulance or go straight to hospital if you have any of the following symptoms:
Treatment for pneumonia will depend on the type of pneumonia you have, how severe the infection is, your age, and general health.
Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics.
Viral pneumonia may be treated with antivirals, but usually, your body will fight the infection by itself.
Mild pneumonia can normally be treated at home with:
If your symptoms are getting worse, or there is no improvement after 3 days of taking antibiotics, make an appointment with a doctor.
Symptoms of pneumonia normally start to improve after about a week, and gradually resolve over the next couple of months. You may still feel tired for a few months after having pneumonia.
Always finish your course of antibiotics even if you feel better. Stopping your antibiotics early can mean the infection isn’t fully treated. This means it may come back and be harder to treat next time.
Some things you can do to help prevent pneumonia include:
If you have severe pneumonia you will need to be treated in hospital. Your doctor will decide on the best course of action for you depending on your age, general health, and symptoms.
NHS: Overview. Pneumonia June 30th 2019 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
GP Notebook: Pneumonia February 2020 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: Scenario- Community-acquired pneumonia June 2021 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
John Hopkins Medicine: Pneumonia 2022 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
NIH: How are different types of pneumonia classified? August 9th 2018 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
NIH: Bacterial Pneumonia December 28th 2021 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
NIH: Pneumonia Pathology April 12th 2022 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
American Lung Association: Pneumonia Treatment and Recovery August 16th 2021 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
NHS: Treatment. Pneumonia June 30th 2019 (Accessed October 5th 2022)
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