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A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop pneumonia with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing pneumonia. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Smoking and Second-hand Smoke

People who smoke have a much higher risk of developing pneumonia. If you stop smoking, your risk will gradually return to normal. However, this may take as long as 10 years.

You are also at risk for pneumonia if you are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. For example, children in households where the parents smoke have higher rates of pneumonia than do children in smoke-free households.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Alcohol and drug abuse put you at a higher risk of pneumonia. IV drug use can increase your risk of pneumonia and other infectious diseases.

Crowded Living Conditions

The risk of pneumonia is increased among people living in crowded conditions, such as:

  • Students in dormitories
  • People living in institutions
  • Military personnel in barracks
  • People living in nursing homes

Medical Conditions

People who are hospitalized have a much higher risk of developing pneumonia than do nonhospitalized individuals. This risk is even higher for people who have recently undergone major surgery or who are on ventilators. Other medical conditions that can increase your risk of developing pneumonia include:

Children have a higher risk of developing pneumonia if they have:

Age

Pneumonia is more common among certain age groups:

  • Infants
  • Young children
  • Older adults

Genetic Factors

A number of genetic disorders can predispose you to pneumonia, such as:

Environmental Factors

Occupational exposure to toxic chemical fumes and/or smoke can weaken your lung’s defenses. This can increase your vulnerability to pneumonia germs.

References

Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 25, 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.

Community-acquired pneumonia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 18, 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.

Flanders SA, Collard HR, Saint S. Nosocomial pneumonia: state of the science. Am J Infect Control. 2006;34(2):84-93.

Pneumonia symptoms, causes, and risk factors. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia/symptoms-causes-and-risk.html. Accessed October 3, 2012.

Who is at risk for pneumonia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pnu/atrisk. Updated March 1, 2011. Accessed October 3, 2012.

3/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Su VY, Liu CJ, Wang HK, et al. Sleep apnea and risk of pneumonia: a natoinwide population-based study. CMAJ. 2014;186(6):415-421.

2/3/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Rantala A, Jaakkola JJ, Jaakkola MS. Respiratory infections in adults with atopic disease and IgE antibodies to common aeroallergens. PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e68582.



Last reviewed June 2016 by David L. Horn, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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