Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It occurs when the air sacs or alveoli become inflamed and filled with fluid or pus. Many bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause pneumonia. It can be acquired in the community, in the hospital or healthcare facility, or through ventilators. Moreover, certain populations--infants and very young children, the elderly, people with immunocompromising or chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and HIV--are more prone to developing severe pneumonia that may require hospitalization.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Many different kinds of viruses, bacteria, and fungi can cause the disease. Most commonly, infection occurs through airborne transmission (inhaling infectious particles, produced by a cough or sneeze, that stay in the air for a period of time) or droplet transmission (when infectious droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, eating, or talking come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth). Aspiration pneumonia occurs when a person who has difficulty swallowing suddenly inhales food particles, which then irritate the airways and cause infection.

• Cough, with or without phlegm • Fever, chills, and sweating • Difficulty breathing (which can manifest in many ways, from shortness of breath to wheezing) • Chest pain during breathing • In elderly people, hypothermia (lower-than-normal body temperature) and confusion or changes in mental status • Among infants, vomiting or difficulty feeding, restlessness OR tiredness, and difficulty or rapid breathing

Treatment will vary according to the cause of pneumonia (i.e. antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia, antifungals for fungal pneumonia, and so on). Thus, it is important for anyone with symptoms of pneumonia to be seen and properly assessed by a physician.

A healthy immune system is important in combating pneumonia. Thus, it is vital to maintain a nutritious diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, and an overall healthy lifestyle. Smoking damages the lungs and airways; thus, it is important to stop smoking. Some vaccines, recommended for certain populations such as young children, people older than 65, and those with immunocompromising or chronic conditions, can prevent certain types of pneumonia. Exercise proper hygiene at all times. Maintain a clean and properly ventilated environment at home and in community settings, especially indoors.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024