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Pneumonia - How do doctors diagnose pneumonia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

To find out if you have pneumonia, your doctor will look for:

  • A cough that doesn't go away after a few days

  • Pain in your chest that gets worse when you breathe in or out.

You may also have a high temperature (a fever) and not recover properly from a cough or cold.

You should be especially aware of the dangers of pneumonia if you or someone in your family:

Usually, your doctor will be able to tell if you have pneumonia by:

  • Asking you about your symptoms. Your doctor will want to know if you have a temperature (a fever), whether you are short of breath, what kind of cough you have, and whether your chest hurts

  • Doing a physical examination. Your doctor will look at your chest to see if the shape of one side is different from the other. Your doctor will also tap your chest to see if areas of your lungs are blocked with mucus. Your doctor will also listen to your lungs through a stethoscope. If the doctor hears bubbles or crackling noises, this suggests that your lungs are inflamed or blocked.[26]

Sometimes if your symptoms are bad, your GP may also:

  • Get a chest x-ray. An x-ray will show whether there is an infection and how far it has spread

  • Order lab tests. Your blood and phlegm may contain germs that will show up in the laboratory. A blood test can also measure how many white blood cells are in your blood. These cells are part of your immune system. If you have more of these cells than is normal, it may indicate that your body is fighting an infection.

If you are young and you do not have any obvious health problem to explain why you have pneumonia, your doctor may suggest that you have an HIV test. Being infected with HIV increases your risk of getting pneumonia.[5][7]

Last Updated: August 22, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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