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Pneumonia FAQs

What causes pneumonia?

Certain germs (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi) are the main causes of pneumonia. Most healthy people can usually fight off these germs. However some people are more susceptible to these germs, less able to fight them off and therefore more likely to get pneumonia.

Occasionally pneumonia is caused by a workplace exposure, or unintentionally aspirating (inhaling) food or vomit into the lungs.

How is pneumonia treated?

If you have any regular symptoms, see your health-care provider to be assessed as soon as possible.
Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics if your pneumonia is suspected to be caused by bacteria
  • Rest at home
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Corticosteroid medication
  • Some people with severe pneumonia may need to go to the hospital to have additional support (e.g., oxygen, intravenous medication)

How can you prevent pneumonia?

  • If you smoke, try to quit—smoke damages the natural defenses in your lungs (e.g., cilia) that protect you from infections
  • Ask your health-care provider about getting the pneumococcal vaccination
  • Get the flu vaccination each year—since pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu, the flu vaccine helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia
  • Wash your hands regularly—when soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • If you have an underlying condition that increases your risk of pneumonia (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis), make sure it’s kept under control
  • If you are at a higher risk from pneumonia and you get a cough, fever or shortness of breath, see your health-care provider right away.
  • Regular exercise, adequate sleep and a healthy diet can strengthen your immune system.

How do I know if I have pneumonia?

Since symptoms can vary depending on your age, see your health-care provider if you notice any health-related changes. Although in some people (e.g., very young, very old) sometimes there are no obvious symptoms of pneumonia, these are the most common:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Yellow-green phlegm (mucus)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling very tired and unwell
  • Chest pain

What is “walking pneumonia”?

When you have pneumonia but the symptoms are mild enough that you do not feel the need to stay home, this is sometimes referred to as “walking pneumonia”. You may not even know you have pneumonia since it can feel just like a cold. If you have any regular symptoms—even mild—that do not go away, see your health-care provider.