The main treatment for pneumonia is antibiotics if the cause is a bacterial infection. In milder cases, these can be taken orally. 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 followup but if you haven’t improved at all within the first 5 days of starting on antibiotics or your symptoms get worst, go back to the doctor. Sometimes you may need a change in the dose or type of antibiotic or even need more than one medication.
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.
Getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol for the fever are also important. Some people may also need physiotherapy to help clear their lungs.
Cough medications are not recommended for people with pneumonia. Coughing can help remove mucus from the lungs and clear the infection.
People with pneumonia should cease smoking and keep well away irritants such as smoke.
Last reviewed: November 2016