Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by a bacterial infection.
Symptoms of pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia can start suddenly or gradually over a few days.
- a cough - it may be dry or you may cough up yellow, green or brown mucus (phlegm)
- shortness of breath
- a high temperature
- loss of appetite
- chest pain
- an aching body
- feeling very tired
- wheezing when you breathe - babies may make grunting noises
- feeling confused
Emergency action required: Call 999, 112 or go to your nearest emergency department (ED) if:
- you're having difficulty breathing
- your lips or tongue are blue
- you feel confused
Urgent advice: Contact your GP urgently if:
- you're feeling short of breath
- you have chest pain that gets worse when you breathe in or out
- you've had a cough for 3 weeks or more
- you're coughing up blood
Your GP may be able to diagnose pneumonia by:
- asking about your symptoms
- listening to your chest and back
- taking your temperature
You may need further tests such as a chest x-ray or blood tests.
Treatment for pneumonia
Your GP may prescribe you antibiotics.
Antibiotics will not help you if the pneumonia is caused by a virus. Pneumonia caused by a virus is not usually as serious as pneumonia caused by bacteria.
Treatment for pneumonia depends on how serious your symptoms are.
Mild pneumonia can usually be treated at home by:
- getting plenty of rest
- taking antibiotics
- drinking plenty of fluids
If your pneumonia is serious, you may need to be treated at the hospital.
At hospital, you will usually be given:
- fluids through a drip
- oxygen to help you breathe
You may be sent for a chest x-ray and blood tests to check if you have pneumonia.
Who can get pneumonia
Anyone can get pneumonia.
You can get pneumonia:
- if you have another infection such as COVID-19 (coronavirus)
- while you're being treated in a hospital
- by something getting into your lungs, such as water or food (aspiration pneumonia)
Higher risk for pneumonia
People at higher risk of getting pneumonia include:
- babies and young children
- older people
- people who smoke
- people with heart, lung, liver, kidney or neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis
- people with a weak immune system
- people with diabetes
If you are at higher risk of getting pneumonia, you should get the:
Causes of pneumonia
Pneumonia is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial pneumonia is more common.
Viruses are a common cause of pneumonia in young children.
Almost all serious complications of COVID-19 feature pneumonia.
Pneumonia can also be caused by:
- fungal infection - more likely to affect people with a weakened immune system
- breathing in vomit, a foreign object such as a peanut or a harmful substance such as smoke
- using a breathing machine while being treated in hospital
Good hygiene will prevent germs that can cause pneumonia from spreading.
- covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- throwing away used tissues as quickly as possible
- washing your hands regularly with water and soap
You can help reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by preventing damage to your lungs.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE