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Learning About Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia (HAP)

What is it?

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

HAP is more serious than pneumonia that people get in daily life. That's because someone with HAP 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 increases your risk?

You're more likely to get HAP if:

  • You have another serious condition, especially another lung disease, such as COPD.
  • You don't eat enough healthy foods.
  • You have a weak immune system.
  • You've been in the hospital.
  • You took antibiotics recently.
  • You are age 55 or older.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of HAP include:

  • A fever.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • A cough with mucus.
  • Feeling very tired or very weak.

Symptoms may start 2 days or more after you go into the hospital or nursing home. They may also start shortly after being sent home.

How is it diagnosed?

It's important to diagnose HAP quickly. If your doctor thinks that you have it, you will have a chest X-ray. Your doctor may also look at a sample of your mucus and blood.

How is it treated?

Most types of HAP are treated with an antibiotic that kills many types of bacteria. This may be done before your doctor knows which type of bacteria caused your infection. Your antibiotic may be changed after tests show which bacteria you have.

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 call line 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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