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Pneumonia
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Pneumonia

Diseases & Conditions A-Z

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ASTHMA & RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Respiratory System

INFECTIOUS DISEASE

Viral Illnesses

INFECTIOUS DISEASE

Bacterial

Although pneumonia is a special concern for older adults and those with chronic illnesses, it can also strike young, healthy people as well.

There are more than 50 kinds of pneumonia that range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. In infectious pneumonia, bacteria, viruses, fungi or other organisms attack your lungs, leading to inflammation that makes it hard to breathe. Pneumonia can affect one or both lungs. Infection of both lungs is sometimes popularly referred to as double pneumonia.

Treatment

Treatments for pneumonia vary, depending on the severity of your symptoms and the type of pneumonia you have.

  • Bacterial. Doctors usually treat bacterial pneumonia with antibiotics. Although you may start to feel better shortly after beginning your medication, be sure to complete your entire course of antibiotics. Stopping medication too soon may cause your pneumonia to return. It also helps create strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics — an increasingly serious problem. In fact, in the past decade the number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria has risen dramatically. In 1994, approximately 6 percent of bacteria that caused pneumonia were resistant to antibiotics. Just 6 years later, in the year 2000, that number had jumped to 34 percent.

  • Viral. Antibiotics aren't effective against viral forms of pneumonia. And although a few viral pneumonias may be treated with antiviral medications, the recommended treatment is the same as for the flu — rest and plenty of fluids. Overall, it may take you longer to recover from viral pneumonia than from bacterial pneumonia.

  • Mycoplasma.  Mycoplasma pneumonias are treated with antibiotics. Even so, recovery may not be immediate — it may take four to six weeks for you to recover completely if your pneumonia is serious. In some cases fatigue may continue long after the infection itself has cleared.

In addition to these treatments, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to reduce fever, treat your aches and pains, and soothe the cough associated with pneumonia. You don't want to suppress your cough completely, though, since coughing helps clear your lungs. If you must use a cough suppressant, use the lowest dose that helps you get some rest.

If you have serious pneumonia — if your breathing is very labored, for instance — you may be hospitalized and treated with intravenous antibiotics or put on oxygen. Some studies seem to show, however, that you may recover as quickly at home with oral antibiotics as in the hospital, especially if you have access to qualified home health care. Sometimes you may spend three or four days in the hospital receiving intravenous antibiotics and then continue to recover at home with oral medication.

Pneumonia > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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