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By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Pneumonia is a common illness with older people. Fever, cough, trouble with breathing and chest pains are signs of pneumonia. All who has pneumonia has a fever. Pneumonia must be treated with penicillin. Since the illness is serious, you should call the doctor immediately, if you suspect pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a common illness that especially occurs with older people and smokers that suffer from chronic lung diseases like bronchitis.

Pneumonia is first caused by different bacteria and more rarely by virus.

Often, pneumonia begins like a common cold with a running nose, a sore throat and dry cough. After a few days, you become ill with chills, high fever, cough, trouble with breathing and chest pains. The fever comes like a bolt from the blue and is often higher than 39ºC. Pneumonia always causes a fever – this is also true for the so-called walking pneumonia. The cough is dry for a few days but quickly thereafter follow sputum of thick yellowish or greenish secrete. Not infrequently, there is fresh blood in the sputum. The chest pains are located downward in the lungs and are heavily worsened by cough and deep breaths.

Most people with pneumonia are seriously ill and lie in bed. The breathing is fast and shallow. Trouble with breathing can be dominating and older people are often so confused that they cannot take care of themselves and are therefore admitted into a hospital.

A general practitioner makes the diagnosis by listening to the lungs, evaluating the ill and taking a few blood samples. Some times it is necessary to take an x-ray of the lungs to see the pneumonia.


Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Usually, the temperature drops during the first 24 hours and the ill person starts feeling more comfortable. In severe cases of pneumonia, the temperature does not drop until after some days but the ill person always feel better during the first 24 hours. If you do not feel better during the first 24 hours, it is usually because penicillin is not the right treatment. In that case, the doctor prescribes a different antibiotic.

What can you do?

The intake of plenty of fluids is important because you lose a lot of fluid when the temperature is elevated. The ill person should be dressed lightly and stay in a cool room.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If you do not feel better in the first 24 hours after starting treatment with penicillin.

Contact the doctor immediately

If you suspect pneumonia.