How long does pneumonia last?


The duration of pneumonia depends on the type of pathogen and the course. Healing can be expected after a period of 2-3 weeks. In some severe cases, however, recovery may take up to 12 weeks. In such cases, one speaks of chronic pneumonia.

The duration of healing is of course individual and can be influenced by many different factors. In general, young, otherwise healthy patients have a higher chance of a quick healing than older patients.

After all, the condition and resilience of the immune system play an important role in recovery. Incubation time, healing time and convalescence also differ depending on the type of pathogen. The latter describes one of the last stages of recovery, and comes from the Latin, from "reconvalescere“, „get strong again“.


The first symptoms of pneumonia appear at different times depending on the pathogen. While the very common pathogen "Streptococcus pneumoniae"Noticeable after an incubation period of only 1-3 days, the duration of the incubation period for the pathogen is"Chlamydia Pneumoniae“Up to 10 days, with mycoplasma up to 3 weeks. With the latter, recovery can already have occurred after a day, but variable courses of up to a month are known. Unfortunately, the recovery process is difficult to influence, which is why a certain amount of patience is often required.

To accelerate the healing process and shorten the duration of the illness, it is advisable to follow the doctor's instructions and to keep strict bed rest. An inflammation always takes a certain amount of time to heal, as it is a structure-changing process in the tissue.

The lungs are a vital organ, so pneumonia is potentially life-threatening. However, the body needs a different amount of time to get rid of the pathogens on the one hand and to rebuild the tissue on the other.

One of the last stages of recovery is known as the stage of convalescence, from the Latin word for "reconvalescere", "to regain strength": In this stage, the last symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and fever disappear over a period of a few days. When this stage is reached, the healing is almost complete. Remission is relatively unlikely in this phase of recovery, but you should wait until the last symptoms have subsided before talking about a cure.

Before the era of antibiotics, symptoms were usually so severe within a few days or weeks after the onset of pneumonia that the patients often died.
Nowadays, pneumonia can usually be treated well and only resistant germs and multiple diseases as well as weakened immune systems still pose risks and sometimes life-threatening courses.
The onset of pneumonia with the symptoms described usually occurs within a few days.
Without immediate treatment, the general condition of the patient usually deteriorates rapidly within 5-7 days.

Thanks to antibiotic therapy, the typical defervescence with accompanying circulatory problems after 7-9 days no longer occurs.
Nowadays, patients usually lose fever earlier and not so radically.
The reason for this is, on the one hand, the antibacterial antibiotic control and, on the other hand, an antipyretic therapy that is usually carried out in parallel.

Read more on this topic at: Pneumonia

How long does the entire illness last?

In the case of pneumonia, you should roughly expect a duration of two to three weeks. Of course there are factors and circumstances that affect the duration positively or negatively. This includes, for example, the environment in which the person affected contracted the pneumonia. The germs differ, for example, depending on whether you contract pneumonia in the hospital or at home.
Choosing the right antibiotic is also important in order to get the disease under control as quickly as possible. If this succeeds right from the start, pneumonia can be treated much more effectively and thus faster. The last decisive factor is the general condition of the patient. A person who is already ill or weakened usually has to struggle with pneumonia for a longer period of time.

How long do the symptoms last?

The typical symptoms of pneumonia last for different lengths of time and depend not least on whether the pneumonia is treated with an antibiotic or not. In addition to the fever, the increased pulse rate usually also decreases after the end of the first week of illness.

If, in addition to the lungs, there is also an inflammation of the pleura, the pain when breathing and the color-changed sputum persist for a few days longer than the fever or the increased pulse rate. The accompanying feeling of weakness and fatigue can persist for a few weeks after the actual illness has ended.

How long does atypical pneumonia last?

Atypical pneumonia usually lasts longer than typical pneumonia, which can be due to the fact that the pneumonia is not recognized as such as quickly or because it takes time to find the right therapy for this form of pneumonia .

Since the pathogen spectrum of an atypical form is clearly demarcated, other antibiotics are necessary here; in some cases even other drugs if the pneumonia is caused by fungi or even parasites.


Pneumonia is usually treated with so-called calculated antibiotic therapy. With this form of therapy, the exact pathogen is unknown and treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic. As a rule, an antibiogram is only created in severe cases, or if there is no improvement in the findings under calculated antibiotic therapy.

After the start of antibiotic therapy, the findings usually improve within 3-4 days, defervescence and a significant decrease in productive sputum.
The radiological signs of pneumonia usually linger for some time and can still be detected when the patient is already feeling better. Even the breathing sounds of the lungs can still be heard as moist rattling noises after the subjective improvement of the findings.

The antibiotic treatment should last for at least 10 days and can be extended accordingly if the patient does not show the expected improvement.
You should also consider that the antibiotic has not hit the germ if there is no improvement or even a worsening of the general condition within 3-4 days.
In this case you should definitely take an antibiogram and change the antibiotic.

If the course is uncomplicated, the pneumonia is considered to have healed after 10 days of intensive treatment at the latest.

Complicated courses in immunocompromised or elderly patients with severe comorbidities can take much longer. Complicated courses can quickly take 2-3 or even 4 weeks. It should be noted that the longer the course of pneumonia lasts, the greater the risk of further complications, such as sepsis (blood poisoning).

Find out more about the topic here: Antibiotics for pneumonia.

That's how long you are in hospital with pneumonia

There are so-called flat rates per case for every illness with hospitalization. Here the remuneration is determined by the health insurance company and there is a guideline value for the “length of stay of a patient in the hospital” for each illness. This guideline value is not mandatory, but serves as a guide for the hospital and is indicated with a lower and an upper limit. The mean length of stay for an unspecified pneumonia is seven days; the upper limit of the length of stay is 13 days. Thus, most of the sick will spend between 7 to 13 days in hospital. However, special circumstances can ensure that this time is exceeded or even undercut.

Need and duration of an artificial coma

In some cases the patient may have to be placed in an artificial coma because mechanical ventilation is required. This is ordered by the doctors if the patient is no longer able to take in sufficient oxygen due to the pneumonia. A so-called tube is used for ventilation, which is a tube that is connected to the breathing machine. This tube is inserted into the patient's windpipe. Since a wakeful person would not tolerate this due to the gag stimulus, the patient is put into an artificial coma.

No general statement can be made here about the duration of an artificial coma. In principle, however, “as short as possible, as long as necessary” applies in this context. Putting the patient into an artificial coma is an escalation step in the treatment of pneumonia and a statement about how long this condition will last, very difficult to predict. Each patient reacts differently to this condition, the underlying disease and the other therapies. In addition, the duration depends on any additional illnesses or organ failure.

If and for how long do I have a fever with pneumonia?

A fever can or does not have to occur with pneumonia. Especially in viral, atypical pneumonia, fever is hardly measurable in the early stages. However, this then rises to a maximum of 38.5 degrees within the first 7 days. Atypical pneumonia is characterized by a gradual worsening of an existing cold.

Fever is always an indicator of a worsening condition. The situation is different with typical bacterial pneumonia. For them an acute onset with an immediate, high fever of over 38.5 degrees is typical. Fever is in itself not a “bad thing”, but a reaction of the body to the colonization with pathogens.

Due to the increased temperature, the body kills the bacteria or viruses that are less heat-resistant than the body's own cells. In itself, fever is a very useful method for the body to get rid of the pathogens. The temperatures often rise quite quickly to 41 degrees, but rarely above, since between 40 and 41 degrees the body's own proteins denature, i.e. their structure dissolves. For this reason, a fever of 40-41 degrees or above is life-threatening and represents a medical emergency that should be treated immediately.

This is how long you should take it easy after pneumonia

Taking it easy after pneumonia should not be interpreted as complete bed rest, but rather not to exert too much effort. Most of the time, after pneumonia, you are weakened for a few weeks and the body's immune system has not yet fully regenerated.

Roughly four to eight weeks can be assumed until one is fully productive again and has regained its starting level.

During this time, however, you can still do normal housework or move outside, provided the weather is not too cold or wet and cold. The better the lungs are ventilated, the faster the final healing usually takes place.

How can you shorten the duration of pneumonia?

The duration of pneumonia can best be shortened with the help of antibiotics or other drugs - depending on the causative germ. These agents actively help to reduce the pathogen load so that the body's immune system does not have to do quite as much work. Due to the faster elimination of the pathogen, the disease itself passes more quickly.
However, it is also true that not every pneumonia has to be treated in hospital. Most processes can also be covered by the outpatient care doctor, provided that the sick person is in good physical condition and strictly adhere to the doctor's instructions. It is also advisable to avoid physical exertion during the illness. The body needs its energy (reserves) during this time to fight pathogens; Training or any other physical strain is absolutely counterproductive in this context.

Pneumonia in toddlers

Pneumonia can be particularly critical in young children. This is because your immune system does not yet have that much experience in fighting pathogens and is therefore not yet fully developed. For this reason, young children are also much more susceptible to viruses and bacteria in general and to pneumonia in particular.

Young children do not necessarily develop the same symptoms as adults. Often there is no change except for a slightly increased temperature. Typically, mucus forms during pneumonia, which older children can easily cough up. However, toddlers often swallow it and then vomit it. In small children, symptoms such as profuse sweating, fluttering of the nostrils due to shortness of breath and a high pulse are typical of pneumonia.

For small children, care and recovery in an environment that is as familiar as possible is beneficial. After all, at such a young age they cannot explain what is happening to them, nor can they be made to understand that it is only a passing event.

For more information, see: Pneumonia in the child

Sick leave

In the case of pneumonia, the patient is usually written off sick leave for 2 weeks. The sick leave may be extended by another 1 to 2 weeks. The doctor is not only allowed to see the sick patient, but must also include his environment: even if a patient has recovered, he is still contagious.

If he works in an environment with chronically immunocompromised people, for example in a hospital, we are happy to give a few more days to avoid infection from others. In other professions, this plays a less important role. A sick leave does not only depend on the illness itself, but also on other factors such as occupation and additional illnesses (or secondary illnesses). As a rule, however, a sick leave should be in the range of 2-3 weeks. It can be issued by the treating family doctor.