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.
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.
Did you find this information useful?
- Pneumonia: Diagnosis and management of community- and hospital-acquired pneumonia in adults; NICE Clinical Guideline (December 2014)
- Guidelines for the management of adult lower respiratory tract infections; European Respiratory Society and European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (September 2011)
- Guidelines for the management of community acquired pneumonia in adults; British Thoracic Society (2009), Thorax Vol 64 Sup III
- Respiratory tract infections (self-limiting): prescribing antibiotics; NICE Clinical Guideline (July 2008)
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