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HealthSheets™

When You Have Pneumonia

You have been diagnosed with pneumonia. This is a serious lung infection. Most cases of pneumonia are caused by bacteria. Pneumonia most often occurs in older adults, young children, and people with chronic health problems.

Home care

  • Take your medicine exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses. Continue taking your antibiotics as until they are all gone, even if you start to feel better. This will prevent the pneumonia from coming back.

  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily, unless directed otherwise. This helps to loosen and thin secretions so that you can cough them up.

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom. Be sure to clean the humidifier daily.

  • Don’t use medicines to suppress your cough unless your cough is dry, painful, or interferes with your sleep. Coughing up mucus is normal. You may use an expectorant if your healthcare provider says it’s okay.

  • You can use warm compresses or a heating pad on the lowest setting to relieve chest discomfort. Use several times a day for 15-20 minutes at a time. To prevent injury to your skin, set the temperature to warm, not hot. Don’t put the compress or pad directly on your skin. Make certain it has a cover or wrap it in a towel. This is to prevent skin burns.

  • Get plenty of rest until your fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain go away.

  • Plan to get a flu shot every year. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia. Getting a flu shot every year can help prevent both the flu and pneumonia.

Getting the pneumococcal vaccine

Talk with your healthcare provider about getting the pneumococcalvaccine. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person. It can cause minor problems, such as ear infections. But it can also turn into life-threatening illnesses of the lungs (pneumonia), the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), and the blood (bacteremia).

Children under 2 years of age, adults over age 65, people with certain health conditions, and smokers are at the highest risk of pneumococcal disease. This vaccine can help prevent pneumococcal disease in both adults and children. Some people should not have the vaccine. Make sure to ask your healthcare provider if you should have the vaccine. 

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C), or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Mucus from the lungs (sputum) that’s yellow, green, bloody, or smells bad

  • A large amount of sputum

  • Vomiting

  • Symptoms that get worse

When to call 911

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Blue lips or fingernails

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.