A woman sits on a cough with blanket wrapped around her shoulders, eyes closed and exhaling.

Do I Need Antibiotics for Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia is most often caused by bacteria, but viruses and fungi can also cause pneumonia. Most coughs in adults and children are caused by viral infections of the respiratory tract.

Why You Might Need Antibiotics for Pneumonia

Antibiotics should be used for a cough only if the individual has pneumonia due to bacteria or tests positive for pertussis (whooping cough).

Symptoms of Pneumonia

  • Fever, cough, and chest pain.
  • Coughing up mucus that may be yellow or green. This does not mean it is a bacterial infection.
  • Wheezing may occur.

Management of Pneumonia

  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water.
  • If your cough is preventing you from resting, talk to your health-care provider about what medicine might help.
  • Plain cough drops or lozenges may help older children and adults. Avoid antibacterial cough drops because they can lead to antibiotic resistance.
    NOTE: Cough drops should not be given to children less than six years of age because of the risk of choking.
  • A chest x-ray is recommended to diagnose bacterial pneumonia. Once the diagnosis is made, antibiotics are normally prescribed.

In British Columbia, you can call HealthLink BC (at 8-1-1) or visit if you need advice or are unsure of the best course of action.

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