Smoking can make you more likely to develop pneumonia, and it can also make the infection worse. It may increase the possibility of recurrent pneumonia and repeat hospital stays.

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While there are a range of negative health effects of smoking, one lesser known complication is smoking’s link to pneumonia. Smokers are also at a greater risk for respiratory tract infections like pneumonia and for more serious complications from these infections.

Pneumonia is a common lung infection, but it can be very serious, especially in older individuals. If you smoke, stopping or reducing your smoking can lower your risk of developing pneumonia and experiencing serious complications.

Read on to learn more about the link between smoking and pneumonia.

Smoking is a major risk factor for respiratory tract infections like pneumonia. In fact, people who smoke are about 1.5 times more likely to develop pneumonia than nonsmokers.

Not only can smoking increase the risk of respiratory infection, but it can also exacerbate the effects of the infection. This may mean more severe symptoms and an illness that lasts longer.

Smoking may contribute to developing pneumonia by damaging cells in the respiratory tract and suppressing the immune system. It can also reduce your sensitivity to coughing, one of your body’s natural defenses against germs.

Signs of pneumonia may include:

These and other symptoms, like fatigue or headaches, can vary from mild to severe. Prompt, appropriate treatment is necessary to prevent serious complications like:

Smoking is also linked to an increased risk of recurrent pneumonia and the need for more hospital stays.

A 2021 study found that approximately 3% of individuals required recurrent hospitalization within 90 days for pneumonia, and about 9% required it within a year.

The researchers found that smokers had a 42% higher rate of recurrent hospitalization for pneumonia within a year compared to nonsmokers. The risk for former smokers was significantly lower at 24%.

Other factors linked to more hospital stays include older age, low income, and the presence of other health conditions.

Some people with pneumonia are able to return to normal life within a week or two, but for others, it may take one month or more.

In the United States, over 40,000 people die of pneumonia each year. In general, older individuals tend to experience worse outcomes, and those 65 and older have a higher fatality rate.

Smoking is also associated with an increase in death from infectious diseases like pneumonia. The risk of fatality in smokers has been reported at over 4 times that of nonsmokers. However, this can be significantly reduced by stopping smoking.

You can reduce your risk of infection by stopping smoking. If you already have pneumonia, stopping can reduce the risk of fatality.

Even if you are not able to fully stop smoking, reducing the amount of cigarettes you smoke may reduce your risk of an infection.

You may see improvement in your cough sensitivity as soon as 2 weeks after you quit smoking, and studies have reported that after 5 years of not smoking, the risk of developing pneumonia is almost the same as for non-smokers.

Learn more about the health effects of stopping smoking.

If you’re hoping to quit smoking, it may be helpful to:

  • find supportive people to encourage you
  • remove smoking temptations from your environment
  • avoid places where you will be exposed to secondhand smoke or be tempted to smoke
  • find other substitutes like mints and gum
  • speak with your doctor about medications and alternative therapies

Smoking can increase your risk of developing pneumonia, and it can also make you more likely to have recurrent infections and hospital stays.

Quitting smoking can benefit your health in many ways and reduce the chances of serious health complications.

If you are struggling to stop smoking, your doctor may be able to recommend medications to help. Whether you smoke or not, it’s important to let your doctor know if you are showing signs of pneumonia so they can prescribe appropriate treatments.