Pneumonia Treatment

Pneumonia is a relatively common lung infection with various symptoms, causes and associated treatments. While are young adults with health immune systems are the least likely people to get pneumonia, anyone is susceptible to contracting this lung infection, especially during the flu season.

The precise course of treatment for pneumonia will depend on which of the following factors is the underlying cause of the condition:

  • bacteria
  • chemicals, food or other foreign substances
  • fungi
  • viruses.

While antibiotics are effective at treating bacterial pneumonia, pneumonia that results from any other cause will require other forms of treatment.

Antibiotic Treatment

Most cases of pneumonia result from bacterial infections and, therefore, respond to antibiotic treatments. All antibiotics prescribed in pneumonia treatments have a high curative rate.

If you are healthy and do not have to go to the hospital to treat pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe one of the following types of antibiotics:

  • Fluoroquinolones, also known as quinolones, are rarely prescribed anymore due to their associated side effects, which include tendon and nerve damage. Gemifloxacin, levoflaxacin and maxifloxacin are all types of quinolone antibiotics.
  • Macrolides are safe, effective antibiotics used to treat a variety of respiratory infections. Those allergic to penicillin are often prescribed macrolides. Azithromycin, clarithromycin and erythromycin are all macrolide variants.
  • Tetracyclines are prescribed less often than macrolides due to the bacterial resistance to this type of antibiotic. Doxycycline is a common type of tetracycline.

Hospitalization for Pneumonia

Serious cases of pneumonia that impair breathing or cause high, persistent fever may require hospitalization. If you are admitted to the hospital, your doctor may prescribe any of the following medications along with the above antibiotics:

  • Cephalosporins are particularly strong antibiotics that can cause patients to suffer from diarrhea, dizziness and fever. Ceftriaxone, cefotaxime and ceftazidime are all types of cephalosporin antibiotics.
  • Penicillin is especially useful when patients are unable or unwilling to take oral antibiotics. Those who are in a coma or unconscious are most likely to receive penicillin shots as treatment for their pneumonia. Amoxicillin, ampicillin and ticardillin with clavulanate are all variants of penicillin.
  • Vancomycin is usually the last line of antibiotic defense against pneumonia. Because vancomycin must be administered intravenously, can be toxic and has serious side effects (including kidney damage), it is only prescribed in the most serious, life-threatening cases of pneumonia.

In most cases, hospitalized pneumonia patients will take an antibiotic course for a few days so doctors can see whether they respond to it. If patients’ symptoms worsen or don’t show noticeable improvement, doctors will perform more extensive exams to determine the underlying cause of persisting pneumonia.

People Hospitalized for Pneumonia

For most, pneumonia will respond to antibiotics, and hospitalization is unnecessary. However, you will likely be hospitalized for pneumonia:

  • if you are older than 65: This is because most people over 65 tend to have weaker immune systems.
  • if you have COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a condition that already impairs breathing and causes patients to have especially fragile lungs.
  • if you have any serious chronic illness: Pneumonia develops rapidly in those who are chronically ill. To prevent serious complications, those will chronic illnesses will likely need to be hospitalized.
  • if you exhibit serious symptoms: Persistent chest pain, high fever and breathing problems all indicate a severe case of pneumonia that likely requires hospital treatment.

The World Health Organization also recommends that hospitalization for babies with pneumonia.

Treatment for Other Types of Pneumonia

Currently, no cure exists for types of pneumonia caused by anything other than bacteria. Consequently, treatment involves minimizing the symptoms until the infection runs its course. Some of the common ways to treat other types of pneumonia include:

  • avoiding caffeine and other dehydrating substances
  • breathing moist air (Using a humidifier can making breathing easier.)
  • resting
  • staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • taking over-the-counter cold and pain relievers (These can reduce the cold or flu-like symptoms of pneumonia.)
  • taking vitamins and other supplements to help strengthen the immune system
  • using vapor rubs to help clear the lungs.

While otherwise healthy pneumonia patients will start feeling better within a week, most will fully recover within about four weeks of contracting pneumonia. However, because pathogens (infectious agents) may still linger in your lungs, see your doctor a few weeks after a pneumonia diagnosis to be sure that you are completely over this lung infection.

Resources

American Lung Association (n.d.). Diseases A-Z/Pneumonia. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the American Lung Association Web site.

Baby Centers.com (n.d.). Home Treatment for Babies with Pneumonia. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the Baby Center Web site.

Ezinearticles.com (n.d.). Aspiration Pneumonia is a Serious Problem. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from the Ezine Articles Web site.