Get The Facts About Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia. The risk for pneumococcal pneumonia increases with age and certain chronic conditions.

What Is Pneumococcal Pneumonia?

Pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious bacterial lung disease you shouldn't ignore. It can disrupt your life for weeks and even land you in the hospital.

Causes & Transmission

Many people think pneumococcal pneumonia is a cold or the flu, but it’s not. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria that live in the upper respiratory tract, and it can spread to others through coughing or close contact.

Common Symptoms

Certain symptoms, such as fever and chills, can appear quickly and without warning. Severe cases of pneumococcal pneumonia can lead to hospitalization and can even be life threatening.

Graphic of a woman in white placing her hand on her forehead and looking at a thermomenter. High fever
A graphic of a person in white wearing a blanket and shivering. Excessive sweating and shaking chills
A graphic of a person in white coughing into a tissue paper. Coughing
A graphic of a person in white with hand on chest. Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain
Prevention

Pneumococcal pneumonia can strike any time, anywhere, in any season, so now is the time to talk to a healthcare provider about vaccination. You can't get pneumococcal pneumonia from getting vaccinated, because pneumococcal vaccines do not contain live bacteria. 

The CDC recommends adults 19-64 with certain chronic health conditions and all adults 65 or older talk to a healthcare provider about pneumococcal vaccination. Pneumococcal vaccines are available today at many doctor's offices, local pharmacies and at some local health departments.

Who's at Risk

The immune system naturally weakens with age, so even if you're healthy and active, being 65 or older puts you at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia.

Other factors like certain chronic health conditions further increase pneumococcal pneumonia risk in adults 19 and older compared with healthy adults in the same age range. With each chronic condition your risk increases further.

Increased Risk
In adults 19+ with the following chronic conditions as compared to healthy adults in the same age range.

Aged 18-49Aged 50-64Aged 65+
Chronic Lung Disease19.1x16.3x9.2x
Chronic Heart Disease6.9x7.1x4.4x
Diabetes4.7x4.4x3.3x

Catherine:

I was diagnosed with asthma as an adult. Having asthma can sometimes restrict me from doing things I love like riding my bike, hiking or playing frisbee with my border collies. I really try to prioritize taking proactive steps to help keep myself healthy, like avoiding my known asthma triggers. I’ve also learned that I am at increased risk of getting pneumococcal pneumonia because I have asthma. I thought I was too young to get a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination but when my pulmonologist recommended it, I got it because I trust him. I like knowing it’s helping to protect me against this potentially serious lung disease. It’s important to be an active part of your healthcare team, advocate for yourself and ask questions.

Narrator:

If you are 65 years of age or older or 19 or older and have certain chronic health conditions like asthma, COPD, diabetes or chronic heart disease, ask your healthcare provider if pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination is right for you. Visit Lung.org/pneumococcal to learn more.

Pneumococcal Pneumonia Fast Facts

Adults
19+

Adults 19 or older with chronic health conditions such as COPD, asthma, diabetes, and chronic heart disease face greater risk for pneumococcal pneumonia.

6.1x
Greater Risk

Adults 65+ are at 6.1x greater risk for pneumococcal pneumonia compared to healthy adults aged 18–64.

Over
10x
More Likely

Adults 65+ are over 10x more likely to be hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia than adults aged 18-49.

Now that you have the facts, learn more about your personal risk for pneumococcal pneumonia.

1
2
3

Your Risk Assessment

Answer these three questions to learn more about your risk.

Age, chronic health conditions and lifestyle factors may increase your risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. If you’re 19 or older with a chronic health condition or 65 or older, you may be at increased risk.

What is your age?

Please Select an Age Range

As we age, our immune systems aren’t as effective at fighting off infections and helping to protect us from vaccine-preventable disease.

Do you have any of these chronic conditions?

Diabetes, chronic heart disease, COPD, asthma, or a weakened immune system.

Please Indicate Chronic Conditions

In addition to age, certain chronic health conditions can make the body more vulnerable to serious illnesses such as pneumococcal pneumonia.

Do you smoke?

Please Indicate if You Smoke

Smoking damages fragile lung tissue, making lungs more vulnerable to infection.

3.4

Your Summary

Your age, health conditions, and smoking history can contribute to an increased risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Chronic Conditions
  • Current Smoker

Certain Chronic Conditions Increase Risk in Adults Aged 65+*

Adults aged 65 or older are at increased risk due to age alone.
*Compared to healthy adults aged 65+, the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia increases even further with the presence of certain chronic conditions.

3.5

Your Summary

Your age and health conditions may put you at increased risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Chronic Conditions

Certain Chronic Conditions Increase Risk in Adults Aged 65+*

Adults aged 65 or older are at increased risk due to age alone.
*Compared to healthy adults aged 65+, the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia increases even further with the presence of certain chronic conditions.

3.6

Your Summary

Your age and smoking history may put you at increased risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Current Smoker

Adults aged 65 or older are at increased risk due to age alone.

3.7

Your Summary

Although you haven't selected any health conditions or behavior choices that would increase your risk, age is still a key risk factor for pneumococcal pneumonia due in large part to the natural, age-related decline of the immune system. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Age
3.8

Your Summary

Although your age and health conditions are not risk factors, your smoking history may increase your risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Current Smoker
3.9

Your Summary

Although your age and behaviors are not risk factors, you have health conditions that may increase your risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Chronic Conditions

Certain Chronic Conditions Increase Risk in Adults Aged 19-64*

*Compared to healthy adults aged 19-64, the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia increases with the presence of certain chronic conditions.

3.10

Your Summary

Although you're not currently in an elevated-risk age group, your health conditions and smoking history may put you at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and how vaccines may help protect you.

Your Risk Factors

  • Chronic Conditions
  • Current Smoker

Certain Chronic Conditions Increase Risk in Adults Aged 19-64*

*Compared to healthy adults aged 19-64, the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia increases with the presence of certain chronic conditions.

3.11

Your Summary

Your answers to these three questions indicate that you are not in an elevated risk group. If you have concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. And remember, even if you're otherwise healthy, it's always important to recognize your risks as you age.

Understanding Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Download a fact sheet to help understand symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia and how to help prevent the disease.
Download PDF

Developed by the American Lung Association in partnership with Pfizer Inc.
The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient. The American Lung Association does not endorse products, devices or services. This content is intended only for U.S. residents.

Page last updated: July 8, 2024

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