Pneumonia - Outlook and Prevention

What is the outlook for pneumonia?

If you are well enough to be looked after at home, your outlook (doctors may call this 'prognosis') is very good. Less than 1 person in 100 will die as a result of pneumonia. Those who die tend to be people who are older, or those who also have other health problems.

If you need to be looked after in hospital, the outlook is not quite so good. 5-10 people in 100 admitted with pneumonia to an ordinary ward rather than an intensive care unit may die. Again, these will usually be people who were unwell before they had pneumonia, or the elderly. For people who need to have a tube put into their windpipe (trachea) to help them breathe, the death rate rises to 1 in 4.

If the pneumonia is very severe, or caused by an aggressive type of germ (bacterium), such as legionella, you may need to be moved to an intensive care unit in the hospital. In these cases the outlook is much worse. Unfortunately, as many as half of these people may die.

If you are normally well but then develop repeated bouts of pneumonia, it may be the first sign of a problem of your lung or immune system. Some tests of your immune system may be advised if pneumonia happens again for no apparent reason.

Can pneumonia be prevented?

Immunisation against the pneumococcus (the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia) and having the annual flu (influenza) virus immunisation are advised if you are at greater risk of developing these infections.

See separate leaflets called Pneumococcal Immunisation and Influenza Immunisation for further details.

Cigarette smoke damages the lining of the airways and makes the lungs more prone to infection. So stopping smoking will lessen your risk of developing lung infections.

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Author:
Dr Laurence Knott
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
4491 (v42)
Last Checked:
20 January 2015
Next Review:
19 January 2018

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.