Pneumonia May Be Contagious—or Not

Learn which types of pneumonia you can catch from other people

Boy (3-5) having temperature taken by mother
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It affects millions of people every year, but is pneumonia actually contagious? The answer is not very straightforward. Generally, a healthy person will not get pneumonia just by being exposed to someone else with pneumonia, but they could still get sick. In addition, there are types of pneumonia that you can catch from others and spread to people who are vulnerable.

Contagious? Depends on the Cause

To understand if pneumonia is contagious, you have to understand what pneumonia is and how it affects a person. Pneumonia means there is an inflammation of the lungs. There are over 30 different types of pneumonia. It is not one single disease caused by one germ. Pneumonia can be bacterial, viral, fungal, caused by a mycoplasma or even by chemicals. The cause of pneumonia determines whether or not it is contagious to someone else.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia sometimes occurs when a person has some other type of infection (either bacterial or viral) that weakens that person's immune system. It can also occur on its own without a preceding infection. In many cases, the bacteria that causes pneumonia may not cause pneumonia in another healthy person, but it (or the other viral/bacterial infection) could be contagious and cause less serious symptoms, such as an upper respiratory infection.

Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is similar to bacterial pneumonia in regard how contagious it is. If a healthy person is exposed to someone with viral pneumonia, that person may get sick, but it will not necessarily turn into pneumonia. 

The flu is an example of a viral infection that can lead to pneumonia.

Many people that get pneumonia after having the flu have a secondary infection that is caused by bacteria (which would be bacterial pneumonia). Although the person who is sick may not cause someone else to get pneumonia, they can spread the flu as long as they are contagious.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia

Mycoplasma pneumonia is caused by an organism that is somewhere between a bacteria and a virus. The symptoms of mycoplasma pneumonia are typically mild, but it is contagious. If you have mycoplasma pneumonia, you should not expose yourself to infants, older adults or people with weakened immune systems.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is often referred to as "walking pneumonia" because the symptoms are usually not as severe as those caused by other types of pneumonia.

Chemical Pneumonia

Pneumonia caused by chemicals or inhalants is not contagious. It can be quite serious for the person who is affected but cannot be passed to another person through casual contact.

A Word From Verywell

In general, being exposed to someone with pneumonia does not mean you will get pneumonia, but you could get sick with a different or less serious illness. Infants, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to contract pneumonia and suffer serious symptoms from it.

To protect yourself and others, be sure to wash your hands frequently, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, diapering a baby, and before eating or preparing foods.


Pneumonia. American Lung Association.

Pneumonia. Nemours Foundation.