Medicines and treatments for adults with pneumonia

The treatment for your pneumonia will depend on what is causing it (i.e. a viral or bacterial infection).

Pneumonia in adults is usually caused by bacteria. If bacteria are causing the infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. The antibiotic that is most appropriate for you depends on what type of bacteria is causing the infection, and how severe your symptoms are.

Less severe pneumonia infections can be treated with antibiotics at home.

If you haven’t improved at all 2 days after you start antibiotic treatment, or your symptoms get worse, see your doctor.

Find out how to relieve the symptoms of pneumonia.

Severe pneumonia

If you have severe pneumonia, are an older person or have another medical condition, you will be prescribed antibiotics and you might need to go to hospital.

Take your antibiotics for the length of time directed by your doctor, even if you are feeling better. If you don’t take antibiotics for the recommended length of time, bacteria that are not killed can become resistant to that antibiotic — and pass this antibiotic resistance on to other bacteria, and to other people.

Find out more about antibiotic resistance, how it can affect you and how you can help to prevent it.

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking

It is important that you tell your health professional about all the medicines you or anyone in your care is taking — including prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ’natural’, vitamin or mineral supplements). This is because all medicines, including herbal and natural medicines, can cause side effects and may interact with other medicines.

Which antibiotics are used to treat pneumonia?

Amoxycillin

Amoxycillin (e.g. Amoxil) taken by mouth is the recommended treatment for the bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

Amoxycillin is from the same family of antibiotics as penicillin, so if you have had a reaction to penicillin in the past, tell your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe doxycycline (e.g. Doxy-100) or clarithromycin (e.g. Klacid) instead.

If your symptoms haven’t improved at all 2 days after starting antibiotic treatment, or your symptoms get worse, see your doctor.

Read more about amoxycillin, doxycycline and clarithromycin.

Note about medicines names

Most medicines have two names: the active ingredient and the brand name. The active ingredient is the chemical in the medicine that makes it work. The brand name is the name given to the medicine by its manufacturer. There may be several brands that contain the same active ingredient. This website uses active ingredient names (e.g. amoxycillin), with brand names in brackets and with a capital letter (e.g. Amoxil). We also discuss medicines in groups or ‘classes’ when their effects or actions are very similar.

To find out more about active ingredients and brand names read our brand choices information.

Other antibiotics

If you need hospital treatment for your pneumonia, the antibiotics you will be given will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the type of bacteria causing your infection.

Less severe pneumonia may be treated with benzylpenicillin together with doxycyline or clarithromycin.

If your symptoms are severe you may be given azithromycin together with benzylpenicillin and gentamicin.

To find out more, read our medicines information pages on amoxycillin, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and doxycycline.

Phone for medicines information

Call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) to get information about your prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and mineral supplements) from a pharmacist. Your call will be answered by healthdirect Australia.

References
  • Antibiotic Expert Group. Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. In: eTG complete [online]. Therapeutic guidelines: antibiotic. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2012. (Accessed 19 March 2012).
  • Rossi S, ed. eAMH [online]. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook, July 2012.