Frequently Asked Questions about Pneumonia

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Is pneumonia contagious?

Pneumonia is usually only contagious in some specific cases, for example if it is caused by the flu virus (influenza virus) or by certain bacteria, such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia. The risk of transmission is very low; nevertheless, some basic preventive measures such as washing your hands are still recommendable.

For how long is it contagious?

It is impossible to accurately predict the exact length of the infective period as it depends on each person and several other factors, such as the extent of the disease, how quickly the medication acts and the individual’s capacity to fight off the illness.

Why do I have pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection and occurs when a microorganism invades tissues in the lungs.

Is pneumonia serious?

Pneumonia can be very serious, especially in at-risk populations such as children under the age of 5 and adults aged over 65 years. Other risk factors are the presence of comorbidities, e.g., chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes or neurological diseases. Tobacco and excessive alcohol use are other factors that increase the likelihood of suffering a more severe case of pneumonia.

What tests will I undergo?

What is a chest X-ray?

A chest X-ray is an imaging test used to diagnose pneumonia and provide information about the spread of infection throughout the lungs.

Why do I have to do a blood test?

The blood test provides information about your general state of health and the severity of the infection.

Why do they measure my oxygen levels?

The healthcare team need to know your blood oxygen level to determine if you need oxygen therapy.

What treatments are available?

Why am I going to be admitted to hospital?

At the hospital, healthcare staff can monitor your vital signs (heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature) to ensure you are reacting correctly to the treatment established for your pneumonia. You may be administered the treatment intravenously.

In some cases the doctor could decide to isolate patients in order to protect them and everyone else at the hospital. Your nurse will inform you about your hospital care on a daily basis, and also instruct what you can do to help maintain a good level of health when you return home.

How long will I have to remain in the hospital?

Most people admitted to hospital for pneumonia are usually well enough to be discharged within 3–4 days. However, several factors are involved in their treatment plan. Some people can return home quite quickly, while others require more time in the hospital. Ask your doctor about the length of your hospital stay.

What are antibiotics and why do I need them?

Antibiotics are intravenously or orally administered (tablets) medicines used to destroy bacteria and control the infection in your lungs (pneumonia).

I want to stop smoking, where do I start?

If you decide to definitively stop smoking, do not hesitate to contact your doctor as they can provide you with appropriate resources to help you quit.

When should I get vaccinated?

You can receive a flu vaccine every year. The pneumococcus vaccine is taken once and then repeated every 5 years.

How does pneumonia progress?

Will I be cured by the treatment they give me?

Pneumonia is a type of infection and so your doctor will treat it with medicines (antibiotics/antivirals) that help fight off infections. It is essential that you finish the treatment indicated by your doctor. Remember that pneumonia can, in some cases, cause death. If you adhere to your treatment, then your symptoms will certainly disappear and the pneumonia will be cured.

Could my case of pneumonia be very severe?

The severity of pneumonia depends on several factors, including your age, or any comorbidities or risk factors you may have that increase your vulnerability to infection.

What should I do when I return home?

Should I stay in bed when I return home?

Getting out of bed and walking around as much as you can will aid your recovery. Rest is also advised, but this does not mean that you should stay in bed all day. Do not overexert your body.

Do I have to continue taking the antibiotics given to me at the hospital?

The doctor probably prescribed antibiotics for you to continue taking at home. It is very important that you take the antibiotics as prescribed and complete the course of medication.

Substantiated information by:

Antoni Torres Martí
Juan Roselló Sáncho

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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