Pneumocystis Pneumonia and AIDS: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Pneumocystis is a fungus that can sometimes cause pneumonia in people who have AIDS. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia caused by pneumocystis can make it hard to breathe and to get enough oxygen into the blood. Pneumocystis pneumonia, or PCP, is the most common serious infection in people with AIDS.

PCP can be prevented with medicine. If you get PCP, it can be treated. Antibiotics can get rid of the infection. You should have your blood tested regularly to check the strength of your immune system and to help your doctor decide if you need to take drugs to prevent PCP.

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.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take all your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • If you are taking IV medicine at home, follow your doctor's instructions.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep. You may feel weak and tired for a while, but your energy level will improve with time.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids until you feel better. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Take care of your cough so you can rest. A cough that brings up mucus from your lungs is common with pneumonia. It is one way your body gets rid of the infection. But if coughing keeps you from resting or causes severe fatigue and chest-wall pain, talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest that you take a medicine to reduce the cough.
  • Use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Dry air makes coughing worse. Follow the instructions for cleaning the machine.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing, or your skin or nails look grey or blue.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have chest pain that is made worse by coughing or deep breathing.
  • You get a rash or a high fever.
  • You have been vomiting and feel like you may faint when you sit up or stand.
  • You get a yeast infection in your mouth or throat (commonly called "thrush"). Symptoms of thrush may include:
    • White patches that look like cottage cheese or milk curds on the tongue or other places in the mouth.
    • Red and raw-looking tissue around and under the white patches, which may bleed.
    • Pain and difficulty swallowing.
  • Your shortness of breath is worse.
  • You have fatigue and feelings of weakness (malaise).

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have a slight fever that lasts for 2 weeks or longer.
  • You feel light-headed or dizzy.
  • You feel like you are getting sicker.

Where can you learn more?

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