Is Pneumonia Contagious? Factors You Should Be Aware Of

Is pneumonia contagious?

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be relatively minor in some while causing major illness in others. If you have a young child or someone with low immunity at home, you are probably worried about whether pneumonia is contagious. Here’s a look at how it spreads and how to spot the symptoms and protect yourself or your family from pneumonia.

Pneumonia Is A Lung Infection With Multiple Causes

This inflammatory illness of the lungs can be caused by bacteria, virus, fungi, or even from exposure to chemicals and toxins. Those with weak or low immunity due to a pre-existing illness like asthma, chronic lung infections like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), children, and the elderly are more vulnerable.1 Pneumonia causes either one of your lungs or even both lungs to become affected. The air sacs in the lungs fill up with pus and fluid, bringing on a slew of symptoms ranging from a cough to fever and even breathing problems as oxygen supply from your lungs to your bloodstream is affected.2 3 If you are healthy, you should get over a bout of pneumonia in 1–3 weeks. But if you aren’t in good health or allow symptoms to worsen unchecked, it could even be life-threatening.4


Pneumonia Caused By Microbes Is Contagious

[pullquote]A person exposed to the same environmental chemicals or toxins may run the same risk as you of catching pneumonia. That does not mean they caught it directly from you. With bacteria or virus linked pneumonia, however, the infection is contagious.[/pullquote]

For most people with pneumonia, virus and bacteria remain the major causes. These forms of pneumonia, brought on by underlying infections of the lung from these microbes, are contagious.5 The offending pathogens include flu virus, herpes simplex virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and rhinovirus.6


If you contract a viral or bacterial infection, some germs remain in your throat and nose and can be dispersed into the air when you sneeze or cough. Anyone coming in contact with these germs could inhale it or touch an infected surface. They may wind up infecting themselves when they touch their nose or mouth with the same unwashed hands.7

Contagious Pneumonia May Be Community Acquired Or Caught In A Hospital

Community-acquired pneumonia refers to pneumonia you catch outside of a hospital environment because of the people you live or work with or come into close contact with. You could also catch pneumonia after a hospital stay – this is hospital-acquired pneumonia. For instance, your time in the hospital may cause you to wind up with pneumonia due to improperly sanitized equipment.8


Symptoms Of Pneumonia To Watch Out For

[pullquote]If a child with pneumonia has trouble breathing or is breathing rapidly, or you notice their lips or nails turning gray or bluish, or if they run a fever of 102°F (over 100.4°F for infants under 6 months), contact their doctor immediately.9[/pullquote]

Now that you know that the illness may be contagious, you should be able to spot signs of the problem to minimize exposure and risk of catching it.10

  • Coughing (with mucus)
  • Breathing trouble
  • Feeling out of breath sooner than you usually do with the same level of exertion
  • Weakness/tiredness
  • Fever, sometimes accompanied by sweating and/or shivering
  • Chest pain
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Appetite loss

As the illness progresses, symptoms may get more severe and additional problems like the following may crop up.11

  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Coughing up blood
  • Sharp pain in the chest when inhaling/exhaling (due to inflammation called pleurisy)

How To Avoid Catching Pneumonia

Some simple precautions and preventive measures can lower your risk of infection from a contagious form of pneumonia. Here are some pointers to protect yourself and your family:

  • Avoid smoking or being around anyone who is smoking to minimize exposure to toxins.12
  • If you are infected, always use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing to prevent the germs from dispersing in the air or onto surfaces around you. Throw it out immediately after to avoid contaminating surfaces or passing on the germs.13
  • If anyone at home is infected, ensure their cutlery, glasses, and utensils are kept separate from everyone else’s and washed separately to avoid contamination.14
  • If you or someone around you has pneumonia, be sure to wash your hands often.15
  • Lower the risk of catching infections by being vaccinated against them. Some of the infections you can be vaccinated against which could help you avoid catching pneumonia are flu, Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) infection, measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and pneumococcal disease.16
  • If you or someone around you has pneumonia, especially if symptoms are worsening, get treated right away. For bacterial infections, a simple course of oral antibiotics will do the trick, so don’t put off getting medical attention.17 You might wind up infecting someone if you don’t.