Yes, certain types of pneumonia are contagious.
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Some of these germs are transmitted from person to person. However, not everyone will develop pneumonia when exposed to the same germs.
It’s also possible to have pneumonia that can’t be transmitted to other people.
What types of pneumonia are contagious?
Bacterial pneumonia can be transmitted from person to person. Forms of bacterial pneumonia include:
- walking pneumonia
- Streptococcal pneumonia
- pneumonia caused by Chlamydia pneumoniae
- pneumonia caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
There are many viruses that can cause pneumonia, including the same viruses that cause the cold and flu. Viruses can pass from person to person easily. For example, the influenza virus can survive on surfaces, making it even more contagious.
Other viruses that attack the respiratory system can be contagious as well.
Most cases of pneumonia are caused by either bacterial or viral organisms. These can spread in a number of ways, including:
- coughs or sneezes that aren’t covered
- sharing cups or eating utensils
- touching a tissue or other item after someone with bacterial or viral pneumonia has used it
- not washing your hands regularly, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
Here are some steps that can help reduce your exposure to the bacteria or viruses that can cause pneumonia.
If you have pneumonia yourself, stay home until you’re well and a doctor says your pneumonia is no longer contagious.
Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- a wet cough that produces colored or clear phlegm
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
Call a doctor if you think an illness may be pneumonia and you’re in a high-risk category.
Also contact a medical professional if you have:
Helpful vaccines for children include:
- DTaP and Tdap, which both protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for Streptococcal pneumonia
Helpful vaccines for adults include:
- pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine for Streptococcal pneumonia
- varicella (chickenpox)
Speak with your doctor about which vaccines are right for you and your family.
Not everyone who’s exposed to these bacteria or viruses will develop pneumonia. People who are at high risk of developing pneumonia include:
- children under 2 years old
- adults over 65 years old
- pregnant people
- anyone with a weakened immune system, such as people who have HIV or AIDS or an autoimmune disease, or who are undergoing chemotherapy
- people with a chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease
- people with lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma
- people who smoke
- people who’ve been hospitalized
Bacterial and viral pneumonia are the most common types of pneumonia. They’re both contagious.
However, you can reduce your risk of developing these pneumonias by getting vaccinated and practicing proper hand hygiene, among other steps.
If you do develop pneumonia, effective treatments are available.
Viral pneumonia is contagious until you’re feeling better and have been free of fever for several days. Although antiviral medications are available, viral pneumonia may get better on its own or after a few weeks of at-home care.