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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Understanding Pneumonia -- Diagnosis and Treatment

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How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed?

Pneumonia ranges from a mild condition treatable at home to a potentially fatal infection requiring hospitalization. If you have symptoms of pneumonia, you should see your health care provider to get appropriate treatment. Your provider may take the following steps to diagnose pneumonia:

  • Listen to your chest for crackling noises and tap your chest to check for dull thuds indicating fluid-filled lungs.
  • Request X-rays to confirm that you have pneumonia. If you have pneumonia, X-rays will show where air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid and debris.

 

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What Are the Treatments for Pneumonia?

Early treatment for pneumonia is most effective, so see your health care provider right away if you think you might have pneumonia. Exactly which drug is used to treat pneumonia depends on the type of germ and on your doctor's treatment strategy. In most cases, treatment must be continued until most symptoms are gone. This is to be sure that all the germs are killed. Full recovery may not occur until after the treatment is completed.

Antibiotics can cure bacterial pneumonia and make recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia much quicker.

Antiviral drugs can be used to treat certain types of viral pneumonia, but there is not yet any treatment that works against all causes.

Supportive treatment often helps. This can include medicines that ease chest pain and relieve violent coughing. Sometimes oxygen is needed. In all cases, a proper diet speeds recovery.

Young, healthy people can feel perfectly fine only a week after recovery from pneumonia. A middle-aged person may not regain full strength for several weeks. In all cases, plenty of rest is needed. People generally can return to work as soon as they feel up to it, but they will need to take it easy at first.

How Can I Prevent Pneumonia?

The best way to prevent pneumonia is to get a flu shot, because the flu can sometimes lead to pneumonia. This most commonly occurs in high risk individuals, such as the very young and old, pregnant women, and those with chronic health problems.

There's also a vaccine against one kind of bacterial pneumonia, pneumococcal pneumonia. You should get this vaccine if:

  • You have a chronic illness such as diabetes, emphysema, kidney failure, or heart disease
  • You are recovering from a severe illness
  • You live in a nursing home
  • You are 65 or older (you may need 2 vaccinations)

As with all diseases, a healthy lifestyle consisting of a proper diet, regular exercise, good hygiene, and not smoking may decrease the risk of illness and speed recovery from infection.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on March 17, 2014

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