NHS Scotland – Pneumonia (CAP) Patient Information Leaflet
This leaflet tells you about pneumonia and how it is treated.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by a germ. Some nurses or doctors may call it a “chest infection” or “lower
respiratory tract infection” instead of “pneumonia”.
Where does the infection come from?
Many different germs cause pneumonia. Some are found in the air, like the „flu‟ virus. Other germs, such as bacteria, live in the throat where they usually do no harm. These germs sometimes get into the lungs and cause pneumonia. This is more likely if you are „run-down‟, smoke, have a long-term
illness and/or as you get older. It is unlikely that your doctor will be able to tell you which germ is causing your pneumonia or how you got it.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are usually similar to severe flu. Some people have
all these symptoms whilst others may only experience one or two. The main symptoms are:
; High temperature with or without shivering: Our bodies
increase in temperature to try to kill off germs and
; Coughing: Sometimes a dry cough where nothing is
coughed up, or a productive cough, where
mucus/phlegm is coughed up.
; Mucus/phlegm: This is the thick liquid produced by your
lungs when fighting an infection. Our lungs often make
more when fighting an infection. It may become a yellow
or brown colour when there is an infection.
; Trouble breathing: This can be caused by inflammation or
fluid in your lungs. Your lungs find it more difficult to take in
oxygen so you have to take more breaths.
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NHS Scotland – Pneumonia (CAP) Patient Information Leaflet ; Chest pain: This can be caused from coughing, but can
also be caused by inflammation between the two layers of
tissue that cover our lungs. These layers are called pleura
and the pain is called pleurisy.
; Blue lips and nails: This sometimes happens when your body
does not get enough oxygen.
; Confusion, including hallucinations and very vivid dreams:
Caused by many things, including having a high
temperature and dehydration.
Who gets pneumonia?
Pneumonia is common and can affect anyone, even the
young and healthy.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
In hospital, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, examine your chest and listen to it with a stethoscope. He or she will measure the number of breaths you take in a minute (your respiratory rate) and your blood pressure. You will normally need a chest x-ray and your doctor will order blood tests.
Your doctor works out how severe the pneumonia is on a scale of 0 to 5 from these investigations. This is called the CURB65 score. It gets its name from the things that the doctor takes into consideration.
A score of 0 or 1 means the pneumonia is mild. When the score is 3 or more, the pneumonia is severe.
Your doctor may use a slightly different score called CRB65. This is used when Urea results are not available.
How serious is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is not life threatening when it is mild, but it can be when it is severe and when someone has another illness as well.
What about treatment and recovery?
Your doctor will decide on treatment based on the severity of pneumonia and any other health problems. Mild pneumonia February 2007 Release 1.2
NHS Scotland – Pneumonia (CAP) Patient Information Leaflet with no other problems can be treated at home. More severe pneumonia needs to be treated in hospital.
Most people make a full recovery. You should usually begin to feel better after 2-3 days, but you may feel tired and lack energy for several weeks.
; If you are in hospital, you may be getting antibiotics and
fluids through a „drip‟.
; People treated in hospital may also need oxygen. ; If you have received antibiotics through a „drip‟, your
doctor will switch you over to antibiotic tablets or capsules
when you begin to get better.
; Once back home, you may be given a follow-up
appointment. Your can also see your GP if you need to
; Follow the advice in the Treatment At Home section below.
Treatment at Home:
If you were not admitted to hospital or after you have been discharged from hospital:
; Taking antibiotics is the most important part of treatment.
Even if you are feeling better, please finish the course.
; Drinking lots of fluids (8 glasses a day) helps loosen
secretions and mucus/phlegm in your lungs and keep you
hydrated. Water or pure fruit juice is good for hydration.
Avoid alcohol while unwell. Do not drink too much tea or
coffee unless it is decaffeinated. Caffeine can increase
; Getting rest is important, but once you are improving you
can gradually increase activity.
; Painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be taken
to reduce fever and relieve chest pains. Coughing may last
for a few weeks as the infection clears and your lungs
recover. Your cough should get better, but if it gets worse,
talk to your GP.
What about follow-up arrangements?
Some people, especially if you are over 50-years old or smoke,
may need a follow-up appointment with a chest x-ray in about February 2007 Release 1.2
NHS Scotland – Pneumonia (CAP) Patient Information Leaflet six-weeks. This is to make sure that the lungs have fully recovered from the infection and that there are no other problems with them. However, most people who are recovering well will not need another x-ray.
; If you are in hospital, your nurse or hospital doctor will
discuss follow-up plans with you.
; If you were not admitted to hospital, your GP will discuss
follow-up plans with you.
; If you don’t get better or symptoms get worse (severe
cough, trouble breathing or fever), or if the antibiotics
make you sick, please contact your GP.
Can pneumonia be avoided?
Although anyone can get pneumonia, keeping in good health can help to avoid it.
; If you smoke, giving-up will reduce your risk of getting
pneumonia again. If you need help with this, please
contact your GP.
; Cough and sneeze into a tissue. Dispose of tissue in plastic
bag and wash your hands afterwards.
; Keep up a healthy lifestyle. A good diet and exercise can
help keep your immune system strong.
; Flu jab. Ask your doctor about getting a flu jab, which
gives good protection against flu.
This booklet has been developed by the Scottish National Audit Project – Community Acquired Pneumonia (SNAP-CAP) and NHS Tayside, based upon the information from www.patient.co.uk and www.besttreatments.co.uk.
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