Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How does one catch pneumonia?"
Is it contagious? My dormmate has it and I don't want to get it too. Should I get checked out?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs by invading bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Most of the time, pneumonia is spread through inhaling droplet particles that have the infecting organism. Some forms of pneumonia are more contagious than others. For example, if your roommate has a simple bacterial pneumonia, then you are probably okay talking to your roommate from across the room. Most healthy young adults that do not smoke generally do not catch pneumonia from other people that have it. This is because most people have the pneumonia vaccine and because our lung's defenses are good enough to prevent the infection. Key exceptions to this is if you have a lung disease, if you smoke, or if you had your spleen removed for some reason. If any of these are true, you are more likely to catch your dorm-mate's infection. Other forms of pneumonia such as the viral pneumonia may be more contagious. Thus, it would not be a bad idea to avoid him or her for the next week or so. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can check you out with a thorough physical exam. If you report any concerning symptoms such as cough or fever, or if your doctor finds something concerning on physical exam, then you may warrant treatment for pneumonia.
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