Which Antibiotics Treat Pneumonia and What to Expect


If you've been diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, you will most likely be prescribed antibiotics to treat it. Antibiotics kill bacteria or make them unable to reproduce.

Your doctor can prescribe one of many antibiotics for pneumonia. Discuss what pneumonia is, what treatment might be needed for pneumonia, and why your doctor might prefer a medicine for pneumonia.

Marco Geber / Getty Imaez

Pneumonia is an infection of the lower respiratory tract. These are infections of the lungs or lung structures such as the bronchi. Pneumonia can make breathing difficult because the air sacs in the lungs, which exchange oxygen with carbon dioxide, fill with fluid.

Viruses or bacteria can cause different types of pneumonia . Less often, fungi may be the culprit.

Viral pneumonia, caused by viruses that also cause colds or the flu, usually goes away on its own with plenty of time and rest. This type of pneumonia tends to be more seasonal in the fall and winter, when cold and flu viruses spread.

It can take up to three weeks to recover from viral pneumonia. You can treat the pain of fever and pneumonia with over-the-counter medications. Antibiotics will not help you get better faster if a virus is causing you pneumonia.

Bacterial pneumonia is more common and requires a course of antibiotics to fully recover, which can take a month or more. Bacterial pneumonia can be caused by the same pathogen that caused the original illness. Or it could be a secondary bacterial infection after a viral illness.

Currently, children are routinely given the PCV13 pneumococcal conjugate vaccine . Helps prevent infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria, such as pneumonia and ear infections. Adults 65 years of age and older can receive the PPSV23 vaccine to prevent bacterial pneumonia.

The regular use of these vaccines has led to a decrease in the incidence of bacterial pneumonia even in unvaccinated adults due to herd immunity.

Types of antibiotics for pneumonia

There are several types of antibiotics that work in slightly different ways. Some are more commonly used to treat pneumonia than others, depending on factors such as:

  • Infection-causing bacteria
  • The severity of the infection
  • If you are in the group of patients with the highest risk of pneumonia.

The types of antibiotics that your doctor usually prescribes for pneumonia include the following:

  • Healthy adults younger than 65 years with pneumonia are usually treated with a combination of amoxicillin and a macrolide, such as Zithromax (azithromycin ), or sometimes a tetracycline, such as vibramycin (doxycycline) .
  • Adults with other medical conditions or smokers are usually given Augmentin (amoxicillin / clavulanic acid), a combination drug that contains amoxicillin and another antibiotic, clavulanic acid beta-lactam. In these patients, augmentin can be supplemented with macrolides or tetracycline. These other conditions make it difficult to fight infections and include chronic diseases of the heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) , diabetes , alcohol disorder, cancer , and patients without a spleen. .
  • For adults who cannot take penicillin , cephalosporins such as rocefin (ceftriaxone) plus macrolide or doxycycline may be prescribed.
  • Adults who cannot take Augmentin due to the presence of beta-lactams are likely to be prescribed inhaled fluoroquinolones such as levakin (levofloxacin).
  • Hospitalized adults who are unlikely to have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Pseudomonas are treated with beta-lactam-macrolide or fluoroquinolone combination therapy.
  • Adults hospitalized with Pseudomonas will be treated with a combination of an antipseudomonas beta-lactam and an antipseudomonas fluoroquinolone.
  • Adults hospitalized with MRSA will also be prescribed anti-MRSA medications such as Vancocina ( vancomycin ) or Zyvox (linezolid).

Antibiotics given to children with pneumonia include the following:

  • Babies, preschool-age children, and school-age children with suspected bacterial pneumonia can be treated with amoxicillin.
  • Children with suspected SARS can be treated with macrolides.
  • Children allergic to penicillin will be treated with other antibiotics, depending on the specific pathogen.
  • Hospitalized and immunized children can be treated with ampicillin or penicillin G.
  • Hospitalized children and babies who are not fully vaccinated can be treated with cephalosporin.
  • Hospitalized children with suspected M. pneumoniae or C. pneumoniae infection can be treated with combination therapy with macrolides (such as azithromycin or clarithromycin) and beta-lactam antibiotics (such as ampicillin or amoxicillin).
  • Hospitalized children with suspected S. aureus infection can be treated with a combination of vancocin or clindamycin and beta-lactams.

How you choose your doctor

Your doctor will choose the antibiotic that is right for you based on several factors, including:

  • Your age: People 65 and older are at higher risk for serious complications from pneumonia.
  • Your health history: A history of smoking, lung disease, or other conditions can affect a person's ability to fight infections .
  • The exact infection you have: Your doctor can take a sample and test it for bacteria. They can then select an antibiotic based on your specific infection.
  • Your previous experience with antibiotics: Be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, have had adverse reactions to antibiotics in the past, or have developed an antibiotic-resistant infection.
  • Susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics: A laboratory will test the bacteria that cause pneumonia to determine which antibiotics they are susceptible to or resistant to.

Doctors generally choose an antibiotic prescription based on the drugs they think will be most effective and cause the fewest side effects.

How long will you take them?

A course of antibiotics for uncomplicated pneumonia usually lasts five to seven days. To cure pneumonia, one course is usually enough. In some cases, you may need more than one course of antibiotics if your infection does not begin to improve or does not seem to respond to medications.

Stay in contact with your doctor to make sure your infection is gone. You will most likely start to feel better and experience some relief from symptoms within one to three days after starting pneumonia treatment, but it may take a week or more for symptoms to clear up completely.

It is incredibly important to take prescription medications , especially antibiotics. Even if you feel better, you must complete the entire course.

Do not stop taking antibiotics early, even if your symptoms improve, as the infection will not be completely cured and it may become resistant to the antibiotics . This will complicate the treatment. If you experience side effects, talk to your doctor. Stop taking medicine only if your doctor tells you it's normal.

Side effects

Antibiotics are serious drugs and can have unpleasant side effects. They may include:

  • Gastrointestinal upset: nausea , vomiting, diarrhea , indigestion, loss of appetite, clay-colored stools, and stomach pain.
  • Skin problems: hives, fungal infections (including mouth sores), allergic reactions (rash), angioedema (swelling of the skin) and sensitivity to sunlight.

Ask your doctor about possible serious adverse reactions to watch out for.

Antibiotics kill bacteria, but our bodies are full of bacteria. Our body has more bacterial cells than human cells. The vast majority of these bacteria, called our microbiome , are good for us; They help us digest food and support the immune system.

But antibiotics work indiscriminately, killing any bacteria they can find, even the good ones. This indiscriminate killing has some complications as harmful bacteria can occupy the parts of our body that have been released by the bacteria killed by the antibiotic.

Some research suggests that taking probiotics or eating probiotic foods while taking antibiotics can help avoid some of the immediate and long-term effects of antibiotics on your microbiome.


Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. The antibiotic that is prescribed depends on the type of bacteria, your age, medical history, etc. Often, you will take antibiotics for five to seven days. Completing the full course is very important. Side effects can occur and you should inform your doctor.

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