Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It affects the small airways and air sacs in the lungs.
Pneumonia is sometimes described by where and how you were infected. Types of pneumonia include:
- Community-acquired—from the community, such as a school, gym, or at work
- Nosocomial—in a hospital or healthcare setting
- Aspiration—happens when foreign matter is inhaled into the lungs, such as food, liquid, saliva, or vomit
Pneumonia may be caused by:
- Infection from specific types of:
- Other specific germs
- Chemical exposure and irritation
Pneumonia is more common in older adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing pneumonia include:
- Living in crowded living conditions, such as dormitories or nursing homes
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Trouble swallowing or coughing
- Having certain lung conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis
- Sleep apnea
- Being on a ventilator
- Heart disease
- Weakened immune system
- Exposures to respiratory inhalants at work, such as:
- Vegetable dusts
Pneumonia may cause:
- Chest pain
- Increased mucus production
- Fever and chills
- Trouble breathing
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may suspect pneumonia based on your symptoms, and breath and lung sounds. Tests can confirm diagnosis and determine the specific germ causing the pneumonia.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests and/or cultures
- Sputum culture
- Urine tests
Pulse oximetry measures blood oxygen levels.
Images may be taken of your lungs. This can be done with:
- A chest x-ray
- A lung ultrasound
Treatment of pneumonia depends on:
- What caused the pneumonia
- Severity of symptoms
- Other factors, like your overall health
People with severe pneumonia may need to be hospitalized.
Your doctor may advise:
- Antibiotics—for pneumonia caused by bacteria
- Antifungal medications—for pneumonia caused by fungi
- Antiviral medications—for pneumonia caused viruses, such as influenza
- Over-the-counter medications to reduce fever and discomfort
- Vitamin C may be advised if you don't get enough in your diet
- Oxygen therapy may be needed in more severe cases
It is important to take all medications as prescribed, even when you are feeling well.
Certain vaccines may prevent pneumonia:
- Flu vaccine—pneumonia may be a complication of the flu for people at high risk of infection, especially aged 50 years and older
- Pneumococcal vaccine:
- All adults who are aged 65 years or older
- Adults of any age who are at high risk of infection or have a suppressed immune system
Other preventive measures include:
- If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit. Smoke weakens the lungs' resistance to infection and increases recovery time.
- Avoid close contact with people who have the cold or flu.
- Wash your hands often, especially after coming into contact with someone who is sick..
- Protect yourself on jobs that include chemicals or other lung irritants.
- Maintain good control of any chronic disease, such as asthma and diabetes.
- Reviewer: David L Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 02/2014 -
- Update Date: 06/17/2014 -