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Patient education: Pneumonia in adults – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

Patient education: Pneumonia in adults – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

What are discharge instructions? — Discharge instructions are information about how to take care of yourself after getting medical care for a health problem.

What is pneumonia? — Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes coughing, fever, and trouble breathing (figure 1). It is a serious illness, especially in young children, people older than 65, and people with other health problems. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and other germs.

How do I care for myself at home? — Ask the doctor or nurse what you should do when you go home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you need to do to care for yourself. Ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.

You should also:

Quit smoking, if you smoke. Your doctor or nurse can help.

Stay away from smoke-filled places. Avoid things that might cause breathing problems like fumes, pollution, dust, and other common allergens.

Drink lots of water, juice, or broth, unless your doctor told you otherwise. This helps replace fluids lost through runny nose and fever.

Carry your inhaler with you at all times, if you were prescribed one. Take all of your other medicines as directed.

Follow all instructions for taking antibiotics, if you were prescribed them.

Take warm, steamy showers to help soothe the cough. You can also use a cool mist humidifier if your doctor told you to. If you try this, keep the humidifier clean.

Use hard candy or cough drops to soothe sore throat and cough.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing (figure 2). Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also work to kill germs.

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow instead of your hands. Throw away tissues in the trash, and wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or touching used tissues.

What follow-up care do I need? — Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to make a follow-up appointment. If so, make sure that you know when and where to go.

When should I call the doctor? — Call for advice if:

You are having so much trouble breathing that you can only say 1 or 2 words at a time.

You need to sit upright at all times to be able to breathe and/or cannot lie down.

You have trouble breathing when talking or sitting still.

Your shortness of breath has not gotten better after a few days.

You are coughing up blood.

You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills, even after taking your medicines.

Your symptoms are not getting better in 3 to 4 days.

You are still coughing in 3 to 4 weeks.

More on this topic

Patient education: Pneumonia in adults (The Basics)
Patient education: Community-acquired pneumonia in adults (The Basics)
Patient education: Hospital-acquired pneumonia (The Basics)
Patient education: Aspiration pneumonia (The Basics)
Patient education: Pneumocystis pneumonia (The Basics)

Patient education: Pneumonia in adults (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Pneumonia prevention in adults (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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