6 Surprising Facts About Pneumonia

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on August 28, 2021
  • Man with Cold/Flu Series
    Be prepared with the right information.
    Pneumonia is a lung condition, usually caused by an infection. It causes tiny sacs inside your lungs to become inflamed and fill with pus and fluid. This causes symptoms like cough, fever and trouble breathing. Many different germs can cause pneumonia, and treatment depends on the cause. Although most people know it’s a lung disease, a few other facts might surprise you—and help you.
  • Virus infection
    1. There's no one cause of pneumonia.
    Viruses are the most common causes of pneumonia. But medical experts have found more than 30 causes of pneumonia. Bacteria can cause it. Fungi can cause it. So can mycoplasma germs. They're neither a virus nor bacteria. They're the smallest germs that can cause disease in humans. You can also get pneumonia from breathing food, dust, liquids or gases into your lungs.
  • Older woman feeling sick husband's forehead
    2. Germs that cause pneumonia often live in your body.
    Many viruses and bacteria known to cause pneumonia may already live in your nose or throat. Your immune system usually keeps them out of your lungs. It's the body's defense system. But your immune system might be weak because it's already fighting off another disease. Then pneumonia can develop. Also, the immune system weakens as you get older. That's why your risk of pneumonia is higher if you are older than 65.
  • Doctor checking boy's ear; mother in foreground
    3. Pneumonia can be deadly in young children.
    Pneumonia causes more deaths than any other kind of infection in children younger than five. Most children who die of pneumonia live in parts of the world where nutrition is poor. The air inside their homes may be polluted from heating with open fires. They also may live in very crowded homes. Parents who smoke in the house also put their children at risk of pneumonia.
  • Breastfeeding
    4. Breastfeeding helps prevent pneumonia.
    Breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life can help keep the child from getting pneumonia. If the baby does get pneumonia, breastfeeding may keep the infection from being long and serious. Research shows that breast milk makes a baby’s immune system stronger. Breast milk also has substances that help keep pneumonia germs from growing in a baby’s nose, throat or lungs.
  • Home healthcare nurse giving injection to senior adult woman.
    5. Getting a flu shot helps prevent pneumonia.
    The viruses that cause flu (influenza) are the ones most likely to cause pneumonia in adults. These viruses pass easily from person to person. So be sure to get a flu shot every year. It will reduce your chances of getting pneumonia. Although most cases of flu do not lead to pneumonia, pneumonia from flu may be severe and dangerous. In fact, pneumonia from flu is a leading cause of death in people older than 65. Older people also can get a vaccination against pneumonia caused by bacteria. You need this shot only once, not every year.
  • Doctor Writing Medical Prescription
    6. Pneumonia usually gets better in two weeks.
    Pneumonia may be life threatening for people with a weak immune system or another serious disease. It also may be worse for people who are very young or very old. But for most people, pneumonia improves in about two weeks. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial pneumonia. They may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat viral pneumonia. Most people with pneumonia can get successful treatment in their homes.
6 Surprising Facts About Pneumonia

About The Author

  1. Understanding Pneumonia. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/understanding-pneumonia.html
  2. Pneumonia. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs331/en/
  3. Prevent Pneumonia. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/prevent-pneumonia.html
  4. International Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. Breastfeeding Helps Prevent Two Major Infant Illnesses. http://ijahsp.nova.edu/articles/vol6num3/pdf/story.pdf
  5. Relationship between Influenza and Pneumonia. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/pneumonia-influenza/?referrer=https://www.google.com/
  6. Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/symptoms-diagnosis-and.html?referrer=https://www.google.c...
  7. Pneumonia Fact Sheet. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/influenza/in-depth-resources/pneumonia-fact-sheet.html
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Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 28
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.