Is There A Cure For Pneumonia


Whether there is a cure for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia. For some forms of pneumonia, especially when diagnosed early, yes, there is a cure! However, some forms have no effective cure, but the immune system might be able to fight them. Other more severe forms exist which can even lead to death in some cases.

This article will describe what changes happen in your body when you have pneumonia, what it feels like when you do, the different types of pneumonia, and how they are treated.

About Pneumonia 

What is Pneumonia?

Oxygen is essential for the normal function of our organs; the brain, for example, begins to die if it goes without oxygen for longer than 4-6 minutes. This oxygen is carried to our organs via the blood, which in turn gets the oxygen from our lungs. 

The lungs act like two large airbags and the air we breathe enters through the breathing tubes (airways). The lungs have multitudes of small air sacs called alveoli, where the inhaled oxygen leaves the lungs and flows into the blood. Carbon dioxide, which is a gas produced by our organs as a waste product, is brought to the lungs via the blood and flows from it into the alveoli. Carbon dioxide is subsequently removed from the body as we exhale. This whole process is called gas exchange and is dependent upon healthy, elastic alveoli which expand and deflate - like balloons - as we breathe in and out.

When one has pneumonia, the alveoli become inflamed and fill up with pus and fluid which prevent effective gas exchange in the affected alveoli. This leads to the characteristic symptoms and signs. 

Pneumonia, more commonly known as a chest infection, is therefore a potentially serious medical condition. It is part of a group of disorders called lower respiratory tract infections, which collectively caused 2.6 million deaths in 2019, making them the 4th most common cause of death worldwide.1 

Pneumonia is caused by the inhalation of infectious material or other substances into the lungs. Infectious pneumonia is spread by small droplets containing infectious particles. These are propelled into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and can be inhaled by someone else. These germs can also be spread by contaminated objects like door knobs and used tissues. The usual flow in such cases is from hands to an object, from the object to another hand, and from the hands into the lungs through the nose or mouth.


There are different classification systems for pneumonia. It is classified based on whether an infectious organism is causing it, otherwise known as infectious pneumonia, or whether it has a non-infectious cause.

Infectious pneumonias are further categorised based on where a person contracted the infection. For people with infectious pneumonia without a recent history of hospitalisation, the term ‘community-acquired pneumonia’ is used. And for people who develop pneumonia 48 hours or more into a hospital admission, they are said to have hospital-acquired pneumonia.2 

This distinction is made because the treatment for the two differs greatly on account of hospital-acquired pneumonia being likely to be caused by so-called ‘superbugs’, which have developed a resistance to certain antibiotics.2

Another classification exists which is based on the severity of symptoms. Patients are classified as having mild, moderate, or severe pneumonia based on their symptoms. Again, this classification is important because the treatment protocols are different for all three forms.3

Causes and Risk Factors

Infectious Pneumonias

  • Bacterial pneumonia - This is pneumonia that is caused by microorganisms. Some common causes of bacterial pneumonia include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis2
  • Atypical pneumonia - This form is typically caused by bacteria. However, the infecting organisms here do not have the characteristics of typical bacteria in that they do not respond to the antibiotics that the above-listed bacteria respond to. In addition, they are not identified by the laboratory techniques that are used to identify their typical counterparts. Hence, they are atypical. Some of these unusual bacteria include Chlamydia pneumoniae and Legionella species

The term atypical pneumonia is also often used to describe pneumonia that does not come with the regular symptoms of pneumonia.

  • Walking pneumonia - This is also caused by an atypical bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae. It is mentioned separately from the other bacterial pneumonias because it causes a distinct form of pneumonia. It tends to affect healthy young adults, and infected people are not as ill as they are expected to be. They are often able to comfortably carry out their regular activities with only mild symptoms. Hence, it is called ‘walking pneumonia’5
  • Viral pneumonia - Viral infections of the lungs lead to this pneumonia. The most common causes of viral pneumonias are Influenza viruses, Coronaviruses (one of which causes COVID-19 pneumonia), and rhinoviruses
  • Fungal pneumonia - Certain fungi are also able to cause lung infections, the commonest of which include Histoplasma capsulatum and Candida albicans. Some fungal pneumonias such as Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia are seen almost exclusively in people with HIV/AIDS or in people whose immune system is weakened in other ways6

Non-infectious pneumonia

Pneumonia can also be caused by inhaling certain materials into the lungs – this is called aspiration pneumonia or chemical pneumonia. Examples of these substances include food particles, vomit, toxic chemicals, or stomach contents.

The risk factors for developing pneumonia include:

  • Age - People at both extremes of the age spectrum (children younger than 2 and adults over 65) do not have strong immune systems and are at higher risk of getting pneumonia. People in these age groups are also at higher risk of having severe forms of the disease
  • Smoking - This decreases one’s ability to clear mucous from the airways, increasing the chances of developing a chest infection
  • Drug abuse/excessive alcohol consumption - These increase the chances of inhaling various substances into the lungs by decreasing one’s consciousness level
  • Overcrowding - Because in most cases pneumonia occurs as an infectious disease, overcrowded conditions increase the chances of transmission from person to person. Such overcrowding tends to occur in prisons, military barracks, and homeless shelters
  • Chronic medical conditions - Persons with underlying medical diagnoses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, heart disease, stroke, epilepsy, or Parkinson's disease are at higher risk of developing chest infections. This is either because the normal lung architecture is somehow altered by a disease process, or because they are less able to protect their airways from inhaled substances
  • Weakened immune system - Conditions like HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, cancer chemotherapy, and diabetes, which lead to a weakened immune system, also increase the risk of developing pneumonia
  • Hospitalisation - This increases the risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia


Imagine feeling as though your body is on fire, you are coughing up a storm, and you are finding it difficult to get in a proper breath of air. That is what having pneumonia feels like – absolutely no fun!

The typical symptoms include:

  • A cough which could be associated with bringing up yellowish, greenish or even blood-stained sputum
  • Fever with chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that is more severe when breathing in or coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Confusion (mostly seen in the elderly)


Hospital Treatment

As a general rule of thumb, hospital treatment is usually required for people with moderate to severe pneumonia. People with mild pneumonia in the high-risk age groups mentioned above, or with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe disease, are also often hospitalised.3

Hospital care may involve oxygen therapy or even the use of a breathing machine (ventilator), depending on the severity of the disease. Antibiotics or antifungal drugs may also be given intravenously if it is determined to be bacterial or fungal pneumonia. These drugs are not used in viral pneumonias because they are not effective in such cases. Other forms of care such as intravenous fluids may also be given.

At-Home Treatment 

Home care is often reserved for mild cases of pneumonia in people with no significant underlying medical conditions. As with severe cases of bacterial pneumonia, mild cases are also given antibiotics. However, these are often oral, and such people generally do not need oxygen therapy. Drugs to lower body temperature and relieve pain such as paracetamol may also be prescribed. Healthcare providers are also likely to advise drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest, as these measures aid the recovery process.


Certain complications may arise from pneumonia. These include:

  • Respiratory failure which occurs when the chest infection is severe enough to make breathing on your own very difficult. In such cases, one needs to be connected to a breathing machine (ventilator). This occurs more frequently with COVID-19 pneumonia
  • Sepsis is a term used to describe a scenario where the infecting organism is no longer restricted to the lungs but is found in the blood as well
  • A lung abscess is said to have formed when pus collects around the lung, which might require a tube to be inserted into the chest to drain it


How long does it take to recover from pneumonia?

There is no uniform timeline for recovery from pneumonia. This varies from person to person and depends on the cause and severity of the infection. It also depends on the age of the affected person and the presence or absence of any underlying medical conditions. However, symptoms may begin to resolve one week after onset, and might take up to six weeks before they disappear completely.7

Is pneumonia serious?

Yes, pneumonia is potentially serious - COVID-19 pneumonia is a good example of just how serious it can be. But as explained earlier, it can also occur with mild symptoms which do not warrant hospital care.

Lifestyle changes to improve recovery/prevent infection

  • Stop smoking - Inhaling smoke can worsen symptoms of pneumonia and this is true for second-hand smoking as well
  • Avoid alcohol and drug abuse - These can weaken your immune system, worsen your symptoms, or make you susceptible to infection in the first place
  • Take all your medication exactly as prescribed
  • Drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced diet, and get adequate rest - These measures can strengthen your immune response to the infection
  • Ask your healthcare provider about vaccines - Find out if you are eligible for vaccines that are used to prevent severe forms of pneumonia, such as the pneumococcal vaccine, the flu vaccine, and the COVID-19 vaccine


Pneumonia is caused by a variety of infectious or irritative substances and can lead to fatal consequences. It is, therefore, critical that you contact your healthcare provider as soon as you develop symptoms that are indicative of pneumonia, as some cases of pneumonia are easily treatable. Certain dietary and lifestyle measures can decrease your risk of the disease and/or improve your chances of recovery. Additionally, some severe forms of the disease can be prevented through vaccination.  

Eat a well-balanced diet, engage in plenty of exercise, and avoid smoking, excessive alcohol use, and illicit drug abuse. Additionally, make sure to ask your healthcare provider about your eligibility for potential life-saving vaccines. These measures can decrease your chances of getting pneumonia and improve your overall health.


  1. The top 10 causes of death [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 16]. Available from: 
  2. Shebl E, Gulick PG. Nosocomial pneumonia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 17]. Available from: 
  3. Regunath H, Oba Y. Community-acquired pneumonia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 17]. Available from: 
  4. Murdoch DR, Chambers ST. Atypical pneumonia—time to breathe new life into a useful term? The Lancet Infectious Diseases [Internet]. 2009 Aug 1 [cited 2022 Aug 17];9(8):512–9. Available from: 
  5. Atypical (Walking) pneumonia: treatment & management [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2022 Aug 17]. Available from:
  6. Liu Y, Su L, Jiang SJ, Qu H. Risk factors for mortality from pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (Pcp) in non-HIV patients: a meta-analysis. Oncotarget [Internet]. 2017 Aug 4 [cited 2022 Aug 17];8(35):59729–39. Available from: 
  7. Pneumonia - recovery | NHLBI, NIH [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 17]. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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