Pneumonia FAQs

Pneumonia FAQs

How do you get pneumonia?

  • You may breathe or inhale infected air particles or bacteria into your lungs from your nose and throat. This can often happen while you sleep.
  • You can become infected during or after experiencing a viral upper respiratory illness such as cold or flu.
  • Pneumonia can develop as a complication of a viral illness, such as measles or chickenpox.
  • You may inhale or breathe large amounts of gastric juices, and even food from the stomach, as well as vomit into the lungs (this is known as aspiration pneumonia). It occurs when you already have a medical condition affecting your ability to swallow, or you experience a stroke or seizure.
  • You can also become infected in public areas frequented by people in your daily life. This is often referred to as ‘community-associated pneumonia’ and ‘healthcare associated acquired pneumonia’. The two are distinguished differently as bacteria causing the infection in hospitals may be different from those in the community, and likely require different treatment.

Is pneumonia contagious?

If the cause of your infection is viral or bacterial, you may spread the illness to other individuals during the contagious period. You may be contagious for several days to a week, but this period largely depends on what is causing your pneumonia and whether you seek appropriate treatment.

If you are being treated with antibiotics, you are usually not contagious and cannot spread the infection to others after at least a day of treatment.

Who should you see to diagnose pneumonia?

Health professionals who can diagnose and treat your symptoms include:

  • General practitioners (GPs)
  • Paediatricians
  • Infectious disease specialists
  • Specialists in lung diseases (pulmonologists)
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurse practitioners

What risk factors and complications are associated with pneumonia?

Factors which may make you more high risk or could cause complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Other medical conditions
  • Younger than 1 year or older than 65
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Take proton pump inhibitors to reduce the amount of stomach acid your body produces
  • Excessive alcohol consumption / have an alcohol use problem
  • Recently had a bout of cold or flu
  • If you have been treated in hospital for another medical health concern within the last 3 months
  • If you had your spleen removed or have an impaired spleen 
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