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How long does it take to recover from pneumonia?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Oct 7, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Recovery from pneumonia may take weeks or months depending on your age and the severity of the condition, as well as your underlying health status.

Most otherwise healthy people recover from pneumonia in 1 to 3 weeks, but some people feel tired for about a month.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect for a slightly more severe course of pneumonia:

  • One week: High fever typically resolves.
  • One month: Chest symptoms—such as pain, mucus production and shortness of breath—will likely lessen.
  • Six weeks: Coughing and breathing tends to improve.
  • Three months: Most pneumonia symptoms have abated. Fatigue is still possible.
  • Six months: All symptoms are gone.

Pneumonia recovery: helpful tips

Getting adequate rest, managing symptoms, staying hydrated and eating properly can help promote a quicker recovery from pneumonia. In some cases, breathing exercises taught by a respiratory therapist can aid in healing and recovery. Stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke will also help speed recovery.

Taking antibiotics as directed for as long as directed can also help prevent relapse if the pneumonia is caused by bacteria. Not completing a course of antibiotics can also increase chances of developing antibiotic resistance if you need to take this type of antibiotic again in the future, so it’s important to finish medication as directed. Note that a cough may persist for up to 3 weeks after finishing antibiotics.

A chest X-ray following the completion of antibiotics can help determine if the lung infection has cleared up.

If pneumonia is caused by a virus or fungal infection, other medications are needed.

Pneumonia complications

Complications from pneumonia can prolong recovery and tend to be more common in children, older adults and people with other serious underlying diseases.

Pneumonia complications may include:

  • Bacteria in the bloodstream, which can lead to septic shock
  • Fluid accumulation around the lungs
  • Lung abscess or pus in a cavity in the lung
  • Inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart
  • Kidney failure
  • Respiratory failure
References
  1. American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Pneumonia. September 2020. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/pneumonia/. [Accessed September 16, 2021].
  2. British Lung Foundation (BLF). Recovering from pneumonia. October 2019. Available at: https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/pneumonia/recovery. [Accessed September 16, 2021].
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pneumonia: Symptoms and Complications. September 1, 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumococcal/about/symptoms-complications.html. [Accessed September 16, 2021].

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