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Pneumococcal Pneumonia

What is pneumococcal pneumonia?

Pneumococcal pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcal bacteria. These bacteria can also cause dangerous infections of the blood or brain.

What is the cause?

Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria passed from person to person by sneezing or coughing. You may be more at risk for pneumonia if:

  • You have recently had a cold or the flu.
  • You have another disease, such as diabetes, chronic bronchitis, or cancer.
  • You are over age 65.
  • You have not had the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms, which may seem to start suddenly, include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Chest pain, especially when you take a deep breath
  • Cough that may bring up rust-colored or bloody mucus

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Sputum culture, which is a test of a sample of mucus coughed up from deep in your lungs
  • Chest X-ray

How is it treated?

Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics you can take by mouth at home. Usually you will start to feel better after 2 to 3 days of antibiotics. You should feel close to normal after a week or so. If you are over 60 years old or have other medical problems, it may take longer to feel normal.

If you are very ill, you may need to be in the hospital. Treatment may include:

  • Giving you oxygen to breathe
  • Having a tube in your throat and a machine to help you breathe and to make sure you are getting enough oxygen
  • Giving you IV fluids and medicines, such as antibiotics to treat infection and inhaled medicines to open up the airway

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • If you are taking an antibiotic, take the medicine for as long as your healthcare provider prescribes, even if you feel better. If you stop taking the medicine too soon, you may not kill all of the bacteria and you may get sick again.
  • Drink more liquids (water or tea) every day to help you cough up mucus more easily unless your provider has told you to limit your fluids.
  • Cough up mucus as much as possible. Use cough medicine only if your provider recommends it, such as when your cough makes it hard to sleep.
  • Don’t smoke, and stay away from others who are smoking.
  • Avoid breathing dust and chemical fumes.
  • Get extra rest.
  • Use a humidifier to put more moisture in the air. Avoid steam vaporizers because they can cause burns. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean, as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s important to keep bacteria and mold from growing in the water container.
  • Take nonprescription medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to treat pain and fever. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
  • Use a heating pad on a low setting to reduce any chest pain caused by coughing. Be careful not to fall asleep while you are using the heating pad because you may burn your skin.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent pneumonia?

To reduce your risk of getting a lung infection:

  • Wash your hands often and especially after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Also wash your hands before eating or touching your eyes.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people who are sick, if you can.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should get the pneumococcal shot. This shot helps prevent serious complications of pneumonia, such as an infection of the blood or brain.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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