Skip to content

Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Font Size

Pneumonia - When To Call a Doctor

The faster you get treatment, the faster you will get over pneumonia. This is especially true for the very young, for people older than 65, and for anyone with other long-lasting (chronic) health problems, such as asthma.

Call911or other emergency services immediately if you:

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Lung Injuries

A lung injury can occur in many ways. A car accident could cause a harmful blow and a punctured lung. Or lungs can become injured from inhaling harmful chemicals. A lung injury can even occur while being treated in the hospital for an infection or while on a ventilator. If you or someone you love has an injured lung, you may want to understand better how it occurred and what your health care providers are doing to help.

Read the Lung Injuries article > >

  • Have chest pain that is crushing or squeezing, is increasing in intensity, or occurs with any other symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Have such bad trouble breathing that you are worried you will not have the strength or ability to keep breathing.
  • Cough up large amounts of blood.
  • Feel that you may faint when you sit up or stand.

Call a doctor immediately if you have:

  • A cough that produces blood-tinged or rust-colored mucus from the lungs.
  • A fever with shaking chills.
  • Difficult, shallow, fast breathing with shortness of breath or wheezing.

Call a doctor if your cough:

  • Frequently brings up yellow or green mucus from the lungs and lasts longer than 2 days. Do not confuse mucus from your lungs with mucus running down the back of your throat from your nasal passages (postnasal drip). Postnasal drainage is not a worry.
  • Occurs with a fever of 101 °F (38.3 °C) or higher and brings up yellow or green mucus from the lungs (not postnasal drainage).
  • Causes you to vomit a lot.
  • Continues longer than 4 weeks.

Also call your doctor if you have new chest pain (more than just discomfort when you cough) that gets worse with deep breathing and if you have other symptoms of pneumonia, such as shortness of breath, cough, and fever.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. If you get better on your own, you won't need treatment. If you get worse, you and your doctor will decide what to do next.

Home treatment may be appropriate if:

  • You have classic cold symptoms (nasal stuffiness, mild body aches or headache, mild fever).
  • You cough up mucus that is running down the back of the throat from the nasal passages (postnasal drip). But a cough in which the mucus is definitely coming from the lungs rather than the nasal passages is a more serious problem, and you should contact your doctor.
  • You have signs of the flu (high fever, severe muscle aches or headache, and mild respiratory symptoms). For more information, see the topic Influenza.

Who to see

Health professionals who can diagnose and treat pneumonia include:

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 06, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    man coughing
    You may not even know you have it.
    blood clot
    Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
     
    man coughing
    When a cold becomes bronchitis.
    human lungs
    Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
     

    Bronchitis Overview
    SLIDESHOW
    Copd Myth Fact Quiz
    QUIZ
     
    Living With Copd
    VIDEO
    Energy Boosting Foods
    SLIDESHOW
     

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    cigarette butts snuffed out in ashtray
    SLIDESHOW
    Healthy Home Health Check
    TOOL
     
    Senior woman stretching
    Article
    Diagnosing Copd
    VIDEO
     

    WebMD Special Sections