Pneumonia - Symptoms

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Cough is a common symptom. You may also feel generally unwell and have a high temperature (fever). Other symptoms you may notice include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating.
  • Shivering.
  • Headaches.
  • Aches and pains.

All these symptoms are also seen in flu (influenza) so it is sometimes difficult to diagnose pneumonia in the early stages. See separate leaflet called Influenza and Flu-like Illness for further details.

Coughing up a lot of phlegm (sputum) is more like to happen in pneumonia than in flu. The phlegm may become yellow or green coloured. It may be streaked with blood or you may cough up more significant amounts of blood.

You may become short of breath, start breathing faster than normal and develop a tight chest. A sharp pain in the side of the chest may develop if the infection involves the pleura. The pleura is the membrane between the lung and the chest wall. A doctor may hear crackles when listening to your chest with a stethoscope.

When should you see a doctor?

If you have asthma or COPD you should ask your doctor's advice. They may have given you recommendations about increasing your inhaler medication or taking a 'rescue pack' of antibiotics and steroid tablets at the first sign of an infection. If not, speak to them for advice if you develop symptoms of a chest infection.

There are a number of symptoms that mean you should see a GP even if you do not have any other lung problems. They include:

  • If a fever, wheezing or headache becomes worse or severe.
  • If you develop fast breathing, shortness of breath, or chest pains.
  • If you cough up blood or if your phlegm becomes dark or rusty-coloured.
  • If you become drowsy or confused.
  • If a cough lasts for longer than 3-4 weeks.
  • If you have repeated bouts of acute bronchitis.
  • If any other symptom develops that you are concerned about.

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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.