Pneumonia symptoms can vary a lot from person to person, and often mimic the symptoms of a bad cold or the flu:
- Fatigue (feeling very tired and weak)
- Cough, without or without mucus
- Fever over 100ºF or 37.8ºC
- Chills, sweats, or body aches
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pain with breathing
- Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
- Fast breathing or heart rate
You might not notice these symptoms until your pneumonia is farther along, and you might also have symptoms not listed here.
At home, you should follow your doctor’s instructions for treatment and pay attention to your symptoms. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you notice any of the following:
- Your cough is worse or brings up blood- or rust-colored mucus
- Your breathing is more difficult — for example, it’s faster, shallower, or more painful than before
- You become lightheaded or very weak
- You don’t start feeling better within 3 days
- Your fever doesn’t go away within 3 days
- You develop shaking and chills
- You develop a serious side effect to your medication — such as vomiting, frequent diarrhea, or a bad rash
Note: Babies with breathing problems may not always cough. Call the doctor if your baby is making grunting noises or if their skin pulls in around or in between their ribs when they breathe. These are signs of serious problems.
Treatment depends on the cause of your pneumonia (bacterial, viral, or other) and how severe it is. Most cases can be treated at home, but if you are very sick or are at higher risk, your doctor may want you to stay in the hospital. Common treatments are:
- Medication. Your doctor will likely give you a medication to fight the cause of your infection. For pneumonia caused by bacteria, you will need an antibiotic. For pneumonia caused by a virus like the flu, you may be given an antiviral medicine. It’s important to take the medicine exactly as it is prescribed, for the length of time it is prescribed. Otherwise, your illness can come back worse than before.
- Rest. Rest and sleep help your body fight pneumonia.
- Fluids. Drink plenty of fluids.
- Other supportive treatments. You may need oxygen or other treatments to support your healing, especially if you are in the hospital
Because pneumonia can be serious, it’s best to try to prevent it. Below are some things to do:
- Vaccinate. Get all vaccines recommended by your doctor. Vaccines for influenza (the flu) are recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. A pneumonia vaccine is recommended for people at higher risk of pneumonia, including people who have already had pneumonia.
- Sanitation. Wash your hands often — after shaking hands and touching doorknobs, and before and after eating and cooking. Avoid touching your face.
- Don't smoke. Smoking damages your lungs’ ability to filter out and fight germs. Current cigarette smoking doubles the risk for developing severe bacterial pneumonia.
- Immune system protection. Keep your immune system strong. Get plenty of rest and physical activity, and eat a healthy diet.
- Face masks. Wear a mask when cleaning or working in dusty or moldy places. This can help prevent the bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia from getting into your lungs.
- Avoid individuals with a known pneumonia diagnosis as community acquired pneumonia is rather common.