Pneumonia Risk Factors

In general, pneumonia is more likely to affect those who have weaker immune systems, especially adults over the age of 65 and young children who do not have fully developed immune systems. However, factors other than age can weaken people’s immune systems and, as a result, put them at a higher risk of developing pneumonia.

Diseases-Related Pneumonia Risk Factors

One of the main reasons that people’s immune systems are weaker than normal is that they suffer from some other chronic medical condition. While transient medical problems, like a cold or flu, won’t increase your risk for pneumonia, the following incurable medical conditions are disease-related risk factors for pneumonia:

  • AIDS/HIV, which weakens the immune system
  • chronic lung disease, which makes lungs especially fragile
  • diabetes
  • gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), which deteriorates the respiratory tract
  • heart disease.

Other medical factors that can increase the risk for pneumonia include:

  • removing a patient’s spleen
  • taking immunosuppressant medications
  • undergoing chemotherapy.

Lifestyle Practices that Contribute to Pneumonia

For some, lifestyle habits can increase the risk of developing pneumonia. You are more likely to contract pneumonia if you:

  • Abuse alcohol: Over time, excessive alcohol intake breaks down the body’s immune system, paving the way for pneumonia infections to thrive.
  • Live in a dorm: Dorms and other quarters that force people into close proximity are breeding grounds for infectious diseases such as pneumonia.
  • Smoke: Cilia (tiny hairs in the lungs that remove foreign substances) do not work as well in smokers’ lungs. As a result, secretions can build up and become infected with pneumonia bacteria or viruses.
  • Work near chemicals and toxins: Those working in agricultural or industrial environments usually come into constant contact with abrasive chemicals that not only weaken immune system but that also cause respiratory infections like pneumonia.

Pneumonia Risk Factors in Children

Children with the following conditions have higher chance of contracting pneumonia:

  • asthma
  • abnormalities in mouth and throat muscle coordination
  • genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis and Kartagener’s syndrome
  • Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • inborn lung or heart defects
  • leukemia
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Pneumonia Risk Factors Among Gender and Races

Pneumonia affects men and women equally based on the above-listed risk factors. However, when it comes to race, African Americans, American Indians and Alaskans have a higher risk of getting pneumonia. According to the American Lung Association, African Americans tend to die from influenza and pneumonia more often than Caucasians and other ethnicities due to improper treatment of the condition. Improper treatment can occur because of:

  • lack of available information on prevention, risk factors and treatments
  • lack of influenza vaccinations
  • unequal access to necessary heath care.

Keeping yourself healthy is the best way to decrease pneumonia risk factors. Drinking lots of fluids, eating right and not smoking or abusing alcohol are the best ways to stay health and avoid catching pneumonia. Be vigilant if you think that you have pneumonia and see your doctor immediately, as early action can prevent serious pneumonia complications.


A.D.A.M., Inc. (2007). Pneumonia Risk Factors. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the New York Times Web site.

American Lung Association (2007). Racial/Ethnic Differences. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the American Lung Association Web site.

CDC (2002). Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine, What You Need to Know. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the CDC Website.

CDC (1997). Pneumococcal polysaccharide Vaccine, What You Need to Know. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the CDC Website.

Cunha, MD, Burke(2007). Pneumonia, Community-Acquired. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the EMedicine Web site.

Mayo Clinic (2007). Pneumonia. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the Mayo Clinic Web site. (2007). How Do People “Catch Pneumonia”? Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the Medicine Net Web site.

Merck (2005). Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from the Merck Web site.