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Learning About Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia

What is it?

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is pneumonia that you get when you are in a hospital. It also can happen to people who have been on a machine to help them breathe (ventilator).

This condition is more serious than pneumonia you could get when you're not in the hospital. That's because someone who gets pneumonia in the hospital may already have a serious illness. Pneumonia in the hospital is also often caused by different bacteria than the ones that usually cause pneumonia. These other bacteria may be stronger and harder to treat with antibiotics.

What are the symptoms of hospital-acquired pneumonia?

Symptoms include a cough that may produce mucus, a fever, and shortness of breath. You may feel very tired. Symptoms can start 2 days or more after you go into the hospital. They may also start shortly after being sent home.

What puts you at risk for hospital-acquired pneumonia?

You can get hospital-acquired pneumonia when you are in a hospital. You are more likely to get it if you:

  • Have another serious condition, especially another lung disease, such as COPD.
  • Aren't eating enough healthy foods and are malnourished.
  • Have a weak immune system.
  • Have been in the hospital for a long time.
  • Are taking many antibiotics.
  • Are 55 or older.

How is it diagnosed?

If your doctor thinks that you have it, you will have a chest X-ray. Your doctor will listen to your lungs. They may also look at a sample of your mucus and blood. If needed, more imaging tests may be done.

How is it treated?

Most types of hospital-acquired pneumonia are treated with an antibiotic that kills many types of bacteria. This may happen before your doctor knows which type of bacteria caused your infection. Your antibiotic may be changed after tests show which bacteria you have. You may also be given fluids through a vein (I.V.) and oxygen.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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