How Long Does Pneumonia Last?
How long pneumonia lasts depends on the type of pneumonia infecting the individual, what treatment he receives, and any underlying health concerns he has.
Type and Treatment
The onset of bacterial pneumonia can be very sudden. You can go from feeling normal to having a fever and the chills, coughing, and sweating almost instantaneously. Fortunately, bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, which usually shorten the recovery time considerably. Many people begin to feel better almost immediately after beginning a course of antibiotics, but physicians warn that failing to complete the entire course of antibiotics can not only cause pneumonia symptoms to return, it can also contribute to the problem of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. With rest and proper hydration, viral pneumonia usually resolves itself in one to three weeks. Mycoplasma pneumonia, also known as walking pneumonia, is caused by mycoplasmas that share traits with both viruses and bacteria. It can take weeks for a person with mycoplasma pneumonia to even develop symptoms, and the symptoms may never progress beyond those of a bad cold. Mycoplasma pneumonia usually responds well to antibiotics, but it can still take weeks for all symptoms to disappear. Individuals with healthy immune systems and fungal pneumonia usually respond very quickly to anti-fungal medications.
Age and Underlying Illnesses
Advanced age and underlying health concerns can significantly increase the time it takes you to recover from pneumonia. A Canadian study of 535 adult pneumonia patients with a mean age of 62 who were treated with antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia asked the patients about their symptoms two weeks after beginning treatment and then again six weeks after beginning treatment. Twenty-six percent of the patients had pulmonary disease, 17 percent had asthma, and 12 percent had congestive heart failure. After two weeks, 67 percent were still experiencing fatigue, 56 percent had a cough, 50 percent were still experiencing shortness of breath, and 35 percent were still producing sputum. At the six week mark, 45 percent reported fatigue, 35 percent had a cough, and 16 percent were experiencing gastrointestinal distress. The researchers concluded that it may take weeks or even months for pneumonia patients of advanced age or who have serious underlying health concern to recover completely.