What Is the Connection Between Pneumonia and Asthma?

Inhalers can be used to treat both asthma and pneumonia.
An asthma inhaler.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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