After pneumonia-causing bacteria, fungi or viruses enter your body, it can take some time before symptoms appear. In some cases, it can manifest in as little as one to three days. For other people, it takes weeks before a pneumonia infection becomes apparent.1
The type of organism that causes the pneumonia may also affect how long it takes for symptoms to appear. If the pneumonia comes as a complication of flu, you may feel the symptoms in as little as 12 hours after you’ve been exposed to the flu virus. However, with “walking” pneumonia — a very mild case of pneumonia you may not even know you have, it may take weeks before symptoms manifest.2,3 Usually, the severity and duration of pneumonia depend on certain factors. These include:4
- The state of your immune system — People with poor immune system health usually have more severe pneumonia compared to people with healthy immune systems.
- Your health and age — A young and healthy adult typically recovers faster than other pneumonia patients. The elderly or those who are recovering from or struggling with illness are more prone to severe pneumonia, and they take longer to recover from it. Complications may also arise, such as septicemia (bacterial infection throughout the body) or bacteremia (bacterial infection in the blood).
- The cause of the pneumonia — Viral pneumonia is usually less severe than bacterial pneumonia, and may go away sooner.
- How soon you treat it — The quicker you treat pneumonia, the sooner the symptoms disappear.
Healthy individuals usually do not have any difficulty recovering from pneumonia — it’s usually treated as a “mild illness” that goes away in two to three weeks. Nevertheless, some symptoms may linger for several weeks after you’re cured. Older people or those struggling with poor health take much longer to recover from this illness — six to eight weeks, at least.
To help you treat pneumonia and to speed up healing, it’s best for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy, get enough rest and sleep, and avoid smoking. These proactive measures will also help you avoid severe complications that may arise from this illness.