Recovering from pneumonia

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 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 and can help by eating well, exercising and doing 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.

Getting active

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 five to ten 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 a patient information leaflet about the Active cycle of breathing techniques.

What to expect

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

The vast majority of people recover from pneumonia and return to good health. However, pneumonia can be very serious and some people with severe pneumonia don’t survive, despite the best available care. Those who are elderly or have other health problems are most at risk.

Next: Preventing pneumonia >


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Last medically reviewed: October 2016. Due for review: October 2019

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.