The treatment will depend on whether the pneumonia is caused by bacteria or a virus.
If the cause is infection by bacteria, the main treatment is antibiotics. In milder cases, these can be taken by mouth. In more severe cases, they’ll need to be taken by injection, at least at first. They are usually given at the first sign of pneumonia, before it’s clear whether the pneumonia is caused by a virus or bacteria.
Viral pneumonia cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Most people who have pneumonia will be able to stay home. Discuss with your doctor when to return for follow up but if you haven’t improved at all within the first 5 days of starting on antibiotics or your symptoms get worse, go back to the doctor. Sometimes you may need a change in the dose or type of antibiotic or even need more than one medicine.
Some people will need to be in hospital. This is more common for people who are very old, very young or who have other illnesses. A person in hospital for pneumonia may need oxygen therapy, or other more intense forms of treatment.
Cough medicine is not recommended for people with pneumonia. Coughing can help move mucous plugs from the tubes and help clear the infection.
People with pneumonia should quit smoking and keep well away from things that will irritate their lungs, such as smoke. Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest to help you recover.
Last reviewed: September 2018