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Pneumonia - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

How ill you get with pneumonia and how quickly you recover from it depend on your age, your general health, and the type of pneumonia that you have. Also, how quickly you get treated makes a big difference.

It's especially important that older people and people in poor health start treatment with antibiotics straight away.[24]

If you think you have pneumonia, you should contact your GP as soon as possible. If you do have pneumonia, your doctor will start treating it immediately.

See What treatments work for pneumonia? to learn more.

If you have bacterial pneumonia (the most common type), there is a good chance that if you get started on antibiotics straight away, the bacteria will be killed and the infection in your lungs will go away.

If your pneumonia is caused by a virus, antibiotics won't get rid of the infection. Antibiotics work on bacteria, not on viruses. Most of the time, pneumonia that's caused by a virus will get better without treatment. If your doctor thinks that you have pneumonia because a flu virus has caused inflammation in your lungs, you may be given treatment that helps to kill the flu virus.

Pneumonia can be dangerous, especially if you are older and not in good health. If you think you have it, see your GP straight away.

How soon will I get better?

It's hard to say how long it will take for you to get better. If you're young and in good health, you'll probably get better sooner. If the pneumonia is caught early and the infection doesn't spread, you'll probably make a full recovery no matter how old you are.

  • If you follow your doctor's advice and get treated straight away, you should start to feel better in about two days.[21] Your fever should get better. It should also be easier for you to breathe. Your appetite should start coming back.

  • After five to seven days you should be feeling much better. You should start to feel more energetic, but you probably won't feel like you are back to normal. By this time in your illness, you shouldn't have a fever. Your breathing and your appetite will have improved even more. Your cough should be getting better. You should be coughing less often, and the cough should hurt less, too.

  • It will take some time for you to feel as well as you did before you had pneumonia. If you are older or have another condition that affects your general health, it can take up to three months before you feel like you've made a complete recovery.

  • If you have another illness or your defences against infection are lower for some other reason, then you are more likely to get complications. This means that your recovery will take longer. You are also more likely to need to go into hospital.

  • If you are over the age of 50 or a smoker, you should ask your doctor if you need a follow-up x-ray to make sure that all the disease is gone from your lungs.

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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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