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Pneumonia - What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you have pneumonia, your symptoms will probably appear very quickly over a period of 24 hours. Although they're uncomfortable, many of these symptoms are actually your body's way of fighting the infection. But this may not be much comfort if you're feeling bad.

If your pneumonia isn't too bad, you may have only some of the symptoms listed below. If you are older, you may have fewer symptoms than younger people or your symptoms may not be as bad.[4]

The main symptoms of pneumonia are listed below.

High temperature

A high body temperature will make you feel sweaty and weak. It can also make you feel sick. You probably won't feel like eating much. A very high temperature can make you hallucinate (see things that aren't really there) and dream vivid dreams. A high temperature is one of your body's many ways of fighting infections. When you have a high temperature, it's more difficult for germs to survive and multiply.[19]


A cough is one of the most common symptoms of pneumonia. You may get severe coughing spells that leave you feeling exhausted. You could have a dry cough, which means that you don't cough up any phlegm (which doctors call sputum). Or you could have what doctors call a productive cough. This means that you cough up phlegm.[19]

Coughing is one of the ways that your lungs try to get rid of an infection. If the lining of your airways is irritated by inflammation or by fluid, then you will cough to clear your lungs.

For more information about the parts of your lungs and how they work, see What is pneumonia?


This is the name of the fluid you cough up from your lungs. It's produced by your airways. When you have pneumonia, the phlegm your body makes can be white or frothy or it can be thick phlegm that is yellow, green, or rust-coloured. Phlegm is a mix of the white blood cells that your body makes to fight the infection, dead germs, and damaged lung tissue.[19]

Trouble breathing

If you have pneumonia, you will find it more difficult to breathe after climbing the stairs or exerting yourself in some other way. You may also have trouble catching your breath even when you aren't doing anything. Your breathing may become faster. You may find that you are taking 28 breaths or more each minute. People who don't have pneumonia or other lung problems usually take about 12 to 20 breaths each minute.[19]

When you get an infection in your lungs, the airways and the air sacs at the end of the airways become inflamed. They can also be blocked by fluid. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to take in oxygen to feed your cells and to get rid of carbon dioxide, which is a waste product made by your body.

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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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