Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Provider photo for Jonathan Volk

Jonathan Volk, MD

Infectious Diseases

Welcome to My Doctor Online, a web site that my colleagues and I developed to make it easier for you to take care of your healthcare needs. On this site you will find answers to many of your questions about my clinical practice. Also included are several online features that will allow you to e-mail me, check your laboratory results and refill prescriptions. I hope you find its content informative and useful.

My Offices

San Francisco Medical Center
Appt/Advice: 415-833-2200

See all office information »

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Pneumonia is a lung infection. These infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses. They can also be caused by fungi or by your immune system.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing

When your lungs become infected, the air spaces (alveoli) can become inflamed and fill with fluid. This can make breathing difficult. This is especially problematic for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart disease.

Pneumonia can often be treated with antibiotics. It often improves in 2 to 6 weeks. However, in older adults, babies, and people with other diseases, pneumonia can be very serious. These people may need to be in the hospital until they improve.

Causes and Risk Factors

Pneumonia can be caused by a number of different bacteria or viruses. It may follow or occur with another illness, such as:

  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Bronchitis

Rarely, a fungus may cause pneumonia.

Pneumonia itself is not generally thought to be contagious; however, the cold or flu that caused the original illness may still be spread to others.


Common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Cough
  • Fever of 100.5°F or greater
  • Chest pain when you breathe in
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up sputum (mucus) that is green, yellow, or rust-colored 
  • Shaking chills 
  • Rapid breathing and/or heart rate
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Mental confusion, especially in older adults

Call us if you experience these symptoms all the time, or if you feel you are getting sicker.


We will:

  • Ask you about your symptoms
  • Examine you
  • Order a chest X-ray

We may order additional tests to determine the cause of pneumonia.


It is important to treat pneumonia in order to prevent your lung function from getting worse. If untreated this can lead to major complications and even death.

Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home. However, if you are very sick, we may admit you to the hospital.

Pneumonia is usually treated with:

  • Antibiotics
  • Bronchodilators to help your breathing. These medications open the breathing passages and relax the muscles.

Recovering from Pneumonia

You will need time to recover from pneumonia. The younger and healthier you are, the faster your recovery will be.

These steps will support your treatment and recovery.

Drink at least 8 cups a day of fluid (unless you have been advised otherwise by your doctor). Drink water, herbal teas, or clear broth. Avoid drinks with caffeine. Fluids thin your mucus so that you can cough it up and keep your lungs clear. Tell us if you have fluid retention issues or leg swelling.

Balance activity with rest. Your immune system needs rest in order to fight infection.

Eat nutritious foods. Your body needs vitamins and minerals to recover.

Hold a pillow to your chest when you cough to avoid pulling muscles or injuring your ribs.

Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever. Take one to two 500 mg tablets or capsules every 6 to 8 hours. Do not exceed 3,000 mg (6 tablets or capsules) a day. If you have liver problems, call us before you take acetaminophen.

Use your incentive spirometer to take deep breaths, expand your lungs, and clear away pneumonia.


There are many things you can do at home to prevent becoming ill with pneumonia.

Stop smoking. Smoking damages the lungs and the immune system. 

Get vaccinated. Get the pneumococcal and flu vaccines if you have a chronic condition or if you are over the age of 65.

Keep away from crowds. Avoid exposure to crowds and people who are sick, especially during the winter.

Keep your hands clean. Use an alcohol-based hand cleaner often when you touch surfaces that have been touched by others, or wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 10 to 15 seconds.

Avoid dust and air pollutants. Stay inside and use an air conditioner with a clean filter when the air quality is bad. Avoid weed blowers, fires, and toxic fumes.

Keep your immune system strong. Get plenty of rest and get mild to moderate exercise on a regular basis.

Additional References:

Your Care with Me

If you have symptoms that make it hard for you to breathe, please call our Appointment and Advice line. Trained, experienced nurses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can give you immediate advice about what to do. If you want to connect with me directly, they can send me a message or book an appointment with me. 

We urge you to call under these special circumstances:

  • If you have chronic conditions and are having difficulty breathing.
  • If you had general anesthesia recently.
  • If you have been previously diagnosed with pneumonia or a viral illness and have persistent fever, shortness of breath, or a worsening cough.

To prevent pneumonia, we recommend that you get the pneumovax vaccine if:

  • You have a chronic condition.
  • You smoke.
  • You are over 65.

Based on your symptoms, medical history, and any tests I may order, I will confirm your diagnosis. Together we will create a treatment plan that is right for you.

You can connect with me in a variety of ways, depending on the situation and what is most convenient for you at the time. I am available online, by telephone, or in person.

  • For non-urgent questions or concerns, you can e-mail me using this site. You can also book an appointment online to see me in person.
  • If your concerns are immediate, or you simply prefer to use the telephone, please call our Appointment and Advice line which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our advice nurses can give you immediate advice, and our telephone staff can send me a message or book an appointment for you.  
If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

How We Coordinate Your Care

Having all of our Kaiser Permanente departments located together or nearby, including pharmacy, laboratory, radiology and health education, makes getting your care easier for you. 

Another major benefit is our comprehensive electronic medical record system which allows all of the doctors and clinicians involved in your care to stay current on your health status and to collaborate with each other as appropriate.

When every member of the health care team is aware of all aspects of your condition, care is safer and more effective.

If you come to an office visit 
You will receive:
  • Information about when you are due for your next test, screening, or immunization. We can discuss and schedule any preventive tests that you need. 
  • An “after-visit summary” that will summarize the issues we discussed during your visit. You can refer to it if you forget what we discussed, or if you just want to recheck your vital signs and weight. You can also view it online under Past Visits.
To help you prepare for your visit, please see additional details under Office Visit.
If I prescribe medications

We will work together to monitor and assess how your medications are working and make adjustments as needed.  Prescriptions can be filled at any Kaiser Permanente pharmacy. Just let me know which pharmacy works best for you and I will send the prescription electronically in advance of your arrival at the pharmacy.

If refills are needed in the future, you can:

  • Order them online or by phone. Order future refills from my home page or by phone using the pharmacy refill number on your prescription label.
  • Have them delivered to you by mail at no extra cost, or pick them up at the pharmacy. If no refills remain when you place your order, the pharmacy will contact me regarding your prescription.
If lab testing or imaging is needed

For lab tests, I will use our electronic medical record system to send the requisition to the Kaiser Permanente laboratory of your choice. For imaging procedures, we will schedule an appointment with the radiology department. When the results are ready, I will contact you with your results by letter, secure email message, or phone. In addition, you can view most of your laboratory results online, along with any comments that explain them.

If I refer you to a specialist

My specialty colleagues are readily available to assist me if I need additional advice about your condition. In some cases, I may contact them during your visit, so we can discuss your care together. If we decide you need a specialty appointment after that discussion, we can often schedule it the same day or soon thereafter.

If you are due for preventive screenings or tests

As part of our commitment to prevention, additional members of our health care team may contact you to come in for a visit or test.  We will contact you if you are overdue for cancer screenings or conditions which may require monitoring.

Convenient Resources for You

As your personal physician my goal is to provide high quality care and to offer you choices that make your health care convenient. I recommend that you become familiar with the many resources we offer so that you can choose the services that work best for you.

My Doctor Online is available 24/7 so that you can access and manage your care where and when it is most convenient. From my home page you can:

Manage your care securely
  • Secure e-mail messages.
  • Manage your prescriptions and schedule appointments.
  • View your past visits and test results.
  • View Health Reminders to see when you are due for a routine screening or immunization
Learn more about your condition
  • Read about causes, symptoms, treatments and procedures.
  • Find health tools, videos, and podcasts to help you manage your condition.
  • View programs to help you decide on or prepare for a surgery or procedure.
Stay healthy
  • Locate health education classes and support groups offered at our medical center.
  • Explore programs, videos, and podcasts that focus on helping you stay healthy.
  • View Health Reminders to see when you are due for a routine screening or immunization.

Related Health Tools:

Interactive Programs

See more Health Tools »

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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