Pneumonia Types

Distinguishing between different types of pneumonia is important, since treatment varies depending on the nature of the infection. If the wrong method of treatment is selected, then the pneumonia can become worse, even fatal. Treatment for bacterial pneumonia, for instance, is quite different from atypical viral pneumonia treatment.

Symptoms of pneumonia result from lung infection by different foreign entities, including:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungii
  • Viruses.

Some of the many different types of pneumonia are discussed in this article. Each type may have different causes, complications, and symptoms of pneumonia.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia occurs due to several species of bacteria, including the common bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. Bacterial pneumonia is considered one of the more serious types of pneumonia because it can overwhelm a weakened immune system. Risk factors include young or old age, concomitant illnesses, or malnutrition.

Symptoms of pneumonia caused by bacterial infection include:

  • Chattering teeth
  • Confusion
  • Cough with rust- or green-tinged mucus
  • Cyanosis (blue tint to the lips and fingernails)
  • High fever
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Severe chest pain
  • Shaking and chills
  • Sweating.

Viral Pneumonia

According to the American Lung Association, viral pneumonia is the root cause of 50 percent of pneumonia cases. Even though the symptoms appear similar to bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia cannot be treated with antibiotics. Antiviral medication may reduce the severity and duration of viral pneumonia. Although often less serious than bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia can weaken the body, allowing bacterial pneumonia to also develop. This pattern is common in the elderly.

Atypical Pneumonia (Walking Pneumonia)

The term “typical pneumonia” describes a range of pneumonia cases. Atypical viral pneumonia is another possibility, but most cases of atypical pneumonia result from bacterial or Mycoplasma infections. Mycoplasmas are bacteria that share traits of both bacteria and viruses, namely, they lack a cell wall and are unaffected by antibiotics.

Atypical pneumonia tends to produce less severe symptoms than “typical” types of pneumonia, and usually affects young, healthy people. Atypical pneumonia is often referred to as walking pneumonia, because the condition can be treated without hospitalization or bed rest.

Legionnaire’s Disease

Legionnaire’s disease is an atypical pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. A serious atypical pneumonia, Legionnaire’s disease spreads through inhaling water droplets containing Legionella pneumophila bacteria. Contaminated water droplets may come from:

  • Air conditioning units in large buildings (such as hospitals)
  • Hot tubs
  • Hot water tanks
  • Large-scale plumbing systems.

Legionnaire’s disease produces the common symptoms of pneumonia, but it is actually one of the most dangerous types of pneumonia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionnaire’s disease is fatal in 5 to 30 percent of cases.

Community-Acquired Pneumonia

Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) describes the forms of pneumonia contracted outside of typical healthcare settings. Most community-acquired pneumonia occurs in the winter. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that as many as five million people contract CAP every year, with 20 percent of these cases requiring hospitalization.

Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia

Hospital-acquired pneumonia includes some of the most serious types of pneumonia. The term is used to describe pneumonia contracted in a hospital or extended care facility.

Symptoms of pneumonia in healthcare settings are often severe. People in such settings are often more susceptible to pneumonia due to:

  • Old age
  • Recovery from surgery or trauma
  • Weakened immune systems.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia is also often caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making conventional treatments more difficult.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when foreign substances are inhaled into the lungs, which may be transmitted through:

  • Drink
  • Food
  • Saliva
  • Vomit.

Aspiration pneumonia occurs most often in people who:

  • Are alcoholics
  • Are drug addicts
  • Are smokers
  • Have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Have impaired gag reflexes
  • Have swallowing difficulties.

Opportunistic Pneumonia

Many types of pneumonia are caused by infectious agents that, under normal circumstances, are no threat to one’s health. These organisms are often present in the nose, mouth and throat. Groups at risk of opportunistic pneumonia include:

  • Those who are taking immune-suppressing medications, such as chemotherapy and corticosteroids.
  • Those who have had organ transplants.
  • Those with HIV/AIDS or other immune suppressing diseases.


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