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Pneumonia Treatment Overview

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Care Plan

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First steps to consider

  • If you have symptoms of pneumonia, like fever and cough, see a healthcare provider to get a diagnosis and treatment.
  • It’s important to see a provider if you’re at high risk for pneumonia (adults over 65, those with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system).
  • Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia can usually be treated at home with OTC medication and at-home care, but antiviral medication may be prescribed in some cases.

Emergency Care

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Go to the ER or call 911 if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart
  • Vomiting
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration anywhere on your skin, lips, or nails)
  • Chest pain
  • Constant fever of 102˚F or above
  • Confusion
  • Coughing up blood

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All treatments for pneumonia
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Read more about pneumonia care options

When to see a healthcare provider

You should always see a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of pneumonia, which include fever, cough (with or without mucus), trouble breathing, and chest pain. It’s especially important to see a provider if you’re at high risk for pneumonia (adults over age 65, those who have an underlying health condition or weakened immune system).

Getting diagnosed

Pneumonia is usually diagnosed by your symptoms and your provider may order some of these tests:

  • A chest X-ray to check for inflammation in the lungs
  • Blood tests to look for signs your body is fighting an infection
  • Pulse oximetry to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • A sputum test. A sample of lung fluid is taken to identify the cause of the infection.
  • If you’re over 65, in the hospital, or have other major health conditions, your provider may order additional tests like a CT scan to get a more detailed look at your lungs.

What to expect from your doctor visit

  • If you have bacterial pneumonia, you’ll be prescribed antibiotics. Bacterial infections usually get better after a few days of being on antibiotics. Always finish the full course of antibiotics, even if you feel better, to prevent symptoms from coming back.
  • Sometimes antiviral medicine is prescribed for viral pneumonia, though only for certain types.
  • You may be admitted to the hospital if you have trouble breathing or low oxygen levels, are dehydrated, can’t tolerate oral medications or fluids, or have other concerning symptoms or health conditions that need careful monitoring.

Prescription medications

  • Antibiotics: amoxicillin, azithromycin (Zithromax), doxycycline (Vibramycin), levofloxacin (Levaquin), amoxicillin/clavulanate (Augmentin)
  • Antivirals: zanamivir (Relenza), oseltamivir (Tamiflu), rimantadine (Flumadine), amantadine (Symmetrel), baloxavir (Xofluza), ribavirin (Copegus), acyclovir (Zovirax)

Types of providers who treat pneumonia

  • A primary care provider can diagnose and treat pneumonia.
  • A pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in lung disease and can treat complicated cases of pneumonia.
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