Risk Factors for Pneumonia
A risk factor is something that raises the chances of getting a health problem. A person can get pneumonia with or without the ones listed below. The chances of getting pneumonia are greater in people who have many risk factors.
Pneumonia is more common in babies, young children, and older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
People who smoke have a much higher risk of getting pneumonia. Those who stop smoking will have their risk slowly return to normal, but it will take some time. People who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk.
Alcohol and Drug Misuse
Crowded Living Conditions
The risk of pneumonia is higher among people living in crowded conditions, such as people who live in:
- College dorms
- Long-term care facilities
- Nursing homes
- Military barracks
People who are hospitalized have a much higher risk of getting pneumonia than people who are not. The risk is even higher for people who have had major surgery or who are on ventilators. Other health problems that can raise the risk are:
- Problems that affect gag reflex, such as:
- Problems that weaken the immune system, such as:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Heart failure
- Poor nutrition
- Allergies or asthma
- Liver disease
- Mechanical ventilation
Children have a higher risk of getting pneumonia if they have:
- A weakened immune system
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
- Lung or heart defects
- Allergies or asthma
- Nervous system problems that affect the muscles of the mouth and throat
A number of genetic disorders can raise the risk, such as:
Exposure to toxic fumes or smoke can weaken the lungs. This can raise the risk of pneumonia.
- Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/community-acquired-pneumonia-in-adults.
- Community-acquired pneumonia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/community-acquired-pneumonia-in-children.
- COVID-19: How to protect yourself and others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.
- Pneumonia. American Lung Association website. Available at: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia.
- What is pneumonia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/pneumonia.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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