What is the Connection Between Pneumonia and Asthma?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
An asthma inhaler.
An asthma inhaler.

While more studies are required, there are a few important things scientists have learned so far about the connection between pneumonia and asthma. For example, people with asthma may be more at risk for developing pneumonia than those who do not have asthma. Additionally, pneumonia may increase an asthmatic patient’s risk of having an asthma attack. Some people who develop pneumonia when they have asthma may also have abnormal results on pulmonary-function tests for months or even years after they have recovered from pneumonia. Interestingly, there is even some evidence to suggest that a type of bacteria that causes pneumonia may increase a person’s risk of developing asthma.

An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

Pneumonia and asthma are both conditions that affect the respiratory system. They are not, however, the same type of condition. Pneumonia is usually a short-term illness, though some people may develop chronic forms of it. Asthma, on the other hand, is a usually chronic condition. Some people do develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time, however, without going on to suffer from a lifetime of asthma.

Inhalers can be used to treat both asthma and pneumonia.
Inhalers can be used to treat both asthma and pneumonia.

When considering the link between pneumonia and asthma, it's important to understand that the things that cause pneumonia differ from those that cause asthma. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria and viruses as well as the inhalation of food, liquids, and other irritating substances into the lungs. Asthma, on the other hand, may be related to genetics or allergies. It may also develop in relation to a respiratory infection.

Pneumonia and asthma are both conditions that affect the respiratory system.
Pneumonia and asthma are both conditions that affect the respiratory system.

The most common type of connection between pneumonia and asthma seems to exists for people who have already been diagnosed with asthma or are suffering from undiagnosed asthma. These people may be more at risk for contracting pneumonia than those who do not have the condition. Likewise, people who have already been diagnosed with asthma may suffer a worsening of asthma symptoms when they have pneumonia. Some research studies have even produced evidence that suggests bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which are capable of causing a type of pneumonia, may increase an asthmatic’s risk of performing poorly on a pulmonary-function test for months or even years after he recovers from pneumonia. This is particularly true of children infected with this type of pneumonia.

Pneumonia causes the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs, to become inflamed.
Pneumonia causes the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs, to become inflamed.

While pneumonia doesn’t usually cause asthma directly, there is some evidence that it may contribute to its development in some people. A pneumonia infection may leave a person’s airways inflamed and irritated. In some cases, this causes asthma symptoms not only during the episode of pneumonia but long after it has faded as well.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

Drentel

@Laotionne - I too have noticed a lot more kids walking around with inhalers in case they have an asthma attack. I don't know whether more kids have asthma now. Maybe we are just doing a better job of recognizing the condition, and more treatment options, like inhalers, are available now than there were in the past.

I coach a kids' basketball team at the Y, and each year I can count on having at least three players who have asthma. I'm always trying to find that point where I push them hard enough without causing them any serious health problems.

Laotionne

Respiratory diseases and illnesses in general seem to be on the rise these days. There are so many more kids today walking around with inhalers to treat their asthma symptoms than there were when I was a kid. I wonder what is the reason for this and all of the increased cases of kids with allergies, too.

Feryll

My brother had asthma when we were kids. Sometimes when we were playing, he would get too winded and that would bring on an asthma attach. Some of the attacks were pretty scary, especially since we were young and didn't fully understand what was happening. On top of the asthma, he had allergies, and during certain times of the year when a lot of plants were pollinating he had to stay inside a lot.

Even though we knew of no connection between asthma and pneumonia, my mother always worried about him more when he got colds or respiratory infections because she said these illnesses might lead to something more serious. Fortunately, he never developed pneumonia, and he no longer has any problems with asthma.

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