Your doctor will start by asking about your medical history and doing a physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal bubbling or crackling sounds that suggest pneumonia.
If pneumonia is suspected, your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Blood tests. Blood tests are used to confirm an infection and to try to identify the type of organism causing the infection. However, precise identification isn't always possible.
- Chest X-ray. This helps your doctor diagnose pneumonia and determine the extent and location of the infection. However, it can't tell your doctor what kind of germ is causing the pneumonia.
- Pulse oximetry. This measures the oxygen level in your blood. Pneumonia can prevent your lungs from moving enough oxygen into your bloodstream.
- Sputum test. A sample of fluid from your lungs (sputum) is taken after a deep cough and analyzed to help pinpoint the cause of the infection.
Your doctor might order additional tests if you're older than age 65, are in the hospital, or have serious symptoms or health conditions. These may include:
- CT scan. If your pneumonia isn't clearing as quickly as expected, your doctor may recommend a chest CT scan to obtain a more detailed image of your lungs.
- Pleural fluid culture. A fluid sample is taken by putting a needle between your ribs from the pleural area and analyzed to help determine the type of infection.
June 21, 2016
- Pneumonia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu. Accessed April 15, 2016.
- AskMayoExpert. Community-acquired pneumonia (adult). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Goldman L, et al., eds. Overview of pneumonia. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 18, 2016.
- Schauner S, et al. Community-acquired pneumonia in children: A look at the IDSA guidelines. Journal of Family Practice. 2013;62:9.
- Attridge RT, et al. Health care-associated pneumonia: An evidence-based review. American Journal of Medicine. 2011;124:689.
- Hunter JD. Ventilator associated pneumonia. BMJ. 2012;344:e3325.
- Dockrell DH, et al. Pneumococcal pneumonia: Mechanisms of infection and resolution. Chest. 2012;142:482.
- Reynolds RH, et al. Pneumonia in the immunocompetent patient. British Journal of Radiology. 2010;83:998.
- Remington LT, et al. Community-acquired pneumonia. Current Opinion Pulmonary Medicine. 2014;20:215.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults: Protect yourself with pneumococcal vaccines. http://www.cdc.gov/features/adult-pneumococcal/. Accessed April 15, 2016.
- Marrie TJ, et al. Pneumococcal pneumonia in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 15, 2016.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Care following hospitalization for community-acquired pneumonia. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. Community-acquired pneumonia (pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Barson WJ. Community-acquired pneumonia in children: Outpatient treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 15, 2016.
- File TM. Treatment of community-acquired pneumonia in adults in the outpatient setting. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 20, 2016.
- Chang CC, et al. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to reduce cough as an adjunct to antibiotics for acute pneumonia in children and adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006088.pub4/full. Accessed April 20, 2016.
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/mycoplasma/. Accessed April 20, 2016.
- Barson WJ. Community-acquired pneumonia in children: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 20, 2016.
- Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 1, 2016.