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Recovering from pneumonia

Pneumonia can be a serious illness that takes weeks or months to recover from.

Once you start taking antibiotics, your symptoms should begin to improve. Recovery times vary a lot from person to person and depend on your general health, age and how severe your pneumonia is. If you are diagnosed with pneumonia and your symptoms don’t improve in 48 hours, or if they get any worse, call 111 or 999 for a reassessment.

It’s impossible to say exactly how quickly you’ll recover, but here’s an idea of what to expect:

1 week your fever should be gone
4 weeks

your chest will feel better and you’ll produce less mucus

6 weeks

you’ll cough less and find it easier to breathe

3 months most of your symptoms should be gone, though you may still feel tired
6 months you should feel back to normal

You’ll recover gradually. You can help by eating well and doing some exercise including deep breathing exercises.

At first, you’ll need plenty of rest. As you begin to feel better, you can start to be a bit more active, but don’t push yourself too hard. Start off by getting out of bed and moving around for a few minutes each day. As your symptoms improve and you have more energy, you can increase your activity. Speak to your doctor about how much exercise you should do as you recover.

Exercising your lungs may also help. You can do this by taking long slow deep breaths or blowing through a straw into a glass of water. Deep breathing is also good for clearing the mucus from your lungs: breathe deeply 5 to 10 times and then cough or huff strongly a couple of times to move the mucus. Ask your doctor if breathing exercises could help you.

You can find out more about using breathing exercises to clear your lungs from the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care. They’ve produced an information leaflet about the Active cycle of breathing techniques that you can read.

If your symptoms are slow to disappear, if you’re over 60 or you smoke, you should have a chest X-ray 6 weeks after you started your antibiotics. This is to check that the infection has gone from your lungs.

Further information

Call our helpline on 0300 222 5800, where our friendly team will be happy to talk about your concerns and answer your questions.

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Download our pneumonia information (PDF, 223KB)

Last medically reviewed: October 2019. Due for review: October 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.