Depending on your overall health, a mild pneumonia can be usually treated at home, with antibiotics, rest and by drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (1).
More severe cases, especially involving people of increased risk, might require hospital treatment, where you will be given including antibiotics and fluids intravenously through a drip, and you may need sometimes oxygen to help breathing.
Aspiration pneumonia - If you've breathed in an object that's causing pneumonia, it may need to be removed. This will involve a bronchoscope which allows doctors to look into airways and lungs so that the object can be located and removed. This procedure is known as a bronchoscopy (1). However, bronchoscopy is not always necessary for the management of aspiration pneumonia, as some objects (such as food particles) will be naturally broken down in the lungs over time.
The medication most commonly used to treat pneumonia includes:
Antibiotics – they are usually very successful in treating bacterial pneumonia
Painkillers/fever reducers - they help with the fever and discomfort. They include: paracetamol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen (2).
IMPORTANT! You mustn’t take ibuprofen if you:
- Are allergic to aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
- Have asthma, kidney disease, a history of stomach ulcers or indigestion
Unless a doctor tells you otherwise, you should always finish taking a prescribed course of antibiotics, even if you feel better (1). If antibiotics are taken incorrectly (at the wrong times, or for too short a period), this can cause the bacteria to become resistant (1).
Once you start the treatment, your symptoms should gradually improve, however, the recovery time depends on many other factors, such as severity of the pneumonia.
The timeline of the recovery
One week – fever should have stopped
Four weeks – chest pain and mucus production should have substantially reduced
Six weeks – cough and breathlessness should have substantially reduced
Three months – most symptoms should have resolved, but you may still feel very tired (fatigue)
Six months – most people will feel back to normal
The UK NHS recommends that patients whose symptoms don’t improve by three days after starting antibiotic treatment should contact their doctor. It is important to do so because (1):
- The bacteria causing the infection may be resistant to antibiotics – culture and sensitivity tests can sometimes identify the organism and guide antibiotic choices, but not all bacteria can be identified using these tests. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe a different antibiotic, or they may prescribe a second antibiotic to be taken with the first one
- Alternatively, a virus could be causing the infection, rather than bacteria – antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and your body's immune system will have to fight the viral infection by creating antibodies.
(1) Nhs.uk. (2016). Pneumonia - Treatment - NHS Choices. [online] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pneumonia/Pages/Treatment.aspx [Accessed 30 Mar. 2017].
(2) Mayo Clinic. (2016). Treatment - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pneumonia/diagnosis-treatm... [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].