Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Pneumonia treatment

Pneumonia treatments15 depend on the cause and severity of the infection, your age, and your health. Pneumonia treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics: The most common treatment for bacterial pneumonia is the use of antibiotics that are effective against the bacteria most likely causing the infection.

If you develop pneumonia while in a hospital or nursing home, you may need antibiotics that treat more highly resistant bacteria.

  • Antiviral medicine: If there’s been an outbreak of the flu in your area, you may be given an antiviral medication instead of (or in addition to) antibiotics.
  • Fever reducers/pain relievers: These over-the-counter medications may be taken as needed for fever and general pain or discomfort. Such medications include aspirin, ibuprofen (generic Advil, Motrin IB, others), and acetaminophen (generic Tylenol, others).
  • Corticosteroid medicine: In certain cases, you may be given a corticosteroid medicine to relieve inflammation in your lungs.
  • Oxygen: Oxygen is given if your pneumonia is causing breathing trouble.
  • Cough medicine: You may take cough medicine to help suppress your cough and help you sleep more easily. It’s important to note, however, that you should allow yourself to cough sometimes—it helps loosen and move fluids out from the lungs. Try to take the lowest possible dose that helps relieve your symptoms enough to allow you to rest.

Most people with pneumonia recover with antibiotics and plenty of rest. If you have pneumonia, you should take all the prescribed doses of your medications—especially antibiotics. Skipping antibiotic doses not only means you may not recover as well as you should; but it may also cause bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotic.

Despite the relative success of these treatments, roughly 1 in 5 adults with pneumonia need to be hospitalized. People with severe infections may require intensive care and life support measures.

You may require hospitalization if you have pneumonia and:

  • Are older than 65 years old
  • Become confused about things like the time or familiar people or places
  • Your kidney function has declined
  • Your systolic blood pressure is below 90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or your diastolic blood pressure is 60 mm Hg or below
  • Your breathing becomes rapid (30 or more breaths per minute)
  • You require assistance to breathe properly
  • Your temperature is lower than normal
  • Your heart rate is abnormal (below 50 bpm or above 100 bpm)

You may be admitted to the ICU (intensive care unit) if you require breathing support from a ventilator or if your symptoms are severe enough to warrant consistent medical supervision.

Pneumonia medication

Your provider may prescribe the following for pneumonia:

May be prescribed

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Pneumonia prevention

There are a number of ways in which you can help prevent yourself from developing pneumonia.

There are multiple vaccines available to protect against some types of pneumonia and the flu. Discuss these vaccines with your provider if you have any questions about which ones are a good idea for you to get. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends16 the following list of vaccines for lowering your risk of getting pneumonia:

  • Pneumococcal Vaccine: Prevnar-13 (PCV13), Pneumovax 23 (PPSV23)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b Vaccine: Hib, or as part of a combination vaccine, Pentacel
  • Influenza Vaccine: Afluria, Flucelvax, Fluzone, Flublok (trivalent or quadrivalent)
  • Measles as part of a combination vaccine: MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) as part of a combination vaccine: Tdap, Adacel
  • Varicella (chickenpox): Varivax

For adults aged 65 or older, the CDC recommends receiving two pneumococcal vaccines:

  • Get a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) first. Then get a dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)** **at least 1 year later.
  • If you’ve already received PPSV23, get PCV13 at least 1 year after receipt of the most recent PPSV23 dose.
  • If you’ve already received a dose of PCV13 at a younger age, CDC does not recommend another dose.

Vaccination guidelines have changed over time, so make sure to review your vaccination status with your provider—even if you recall previously receiving a pneumonia vaccine.

Developing healthy habits can also help keep you healthy. Additional ways in which you can decrease your risk of getting pneumonia include:

  • Practicing good hygiene: Wash your hands regularly (especially before eating or drinking) with soap and hot water. When soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don't smoke: Smoking damages the lungs' natural defenses against respiratory infections.
  • Keep your immune system strong: Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.