Can an Upper Respiratory Infection Turn Into Pneumonia?

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDMarch 28th, 2021
Senior coughing

Yes, it can. When this occurs, it’s referred to as “viral pneumonia.” When you develop an upper respiratory infection, the airways within your body can become constricted and inflamed. Not only can this prevent you from properly inhaling and exhaling—and thereby clearing out mucus and secretions as intended—but it can also cause your body to produce even more mucus than it normally would. This mucus build-up serves as the ideal breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, and because upper respiratory infections also tend to weaken your immune system, you likely won’t have the ability to fight off any resulting infections. This is generally how upper respiratory infections turn into pneumonia. Among adults, the most common cause of viral pneumonia is the influenza virus (the flu); in young children, it is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). When compared to bacterial pneumonia (the type of pneumonia that’s caused by a bacterial infection), viral pneumonia is generally less serious and lasts for a shorter time. That said, it’s important not to downplay the severity of viral pneumonia, since some cases can be severe and potentially fatal. Viral pneumonia is especially dangerous for pregnant women and individuals with pre-existingheart and lung disease

Other Causes of Pneumonia

Although it’s possible for an upper respiratory infection to turn into pneumonia, that’s not the only potential cause of this illness. Pneumonia can also develop from:

Bacterial Infections

While bacterial pneumonia can sometimes occur after someone has contracted an upper respiratory infection, in other instances it can develop on its own (for example, after someone has undergone surgery). Pneumococcal pneumonia, which is caused by streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia.

Fungal Infections

Certain types of fungi—including coccidioidomycosis, cryptococcus, histoplasmosis, and pneumocystis jirovecii—can cause someone to develop pneumonia. Individuals with compromised immune systems, as well as those who experience chronic health issues, tend to be especially at risk for developing fungal pneumonia.

In-Home Treatment for Upper Respiratory Infections & Pneumonia

Whether you have an upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, or any other non-life-threatening illness, you can confidently turn to DispatchHealth for treatment. We stand apart from most other healthcare providers because we bring the treatment straight to you, allowing you to be seen in person by trained medical professionals without having to step foot outside your house. Having an illness like an upper respiratory infection or pneumonia can mean that your immune system is already functioning at subpar levels, which could make sitting in a germ-ridden waiting room especially dangerous. Plus, when you rely on DispatchHealth for treatment, you can relax at home rather than having to travel to a brick-and-mortar office, and this added rest could potentially speed up your recovery time.

If you’re interested in receiving treatment from DispatchHealth, call us, download our mobile app, or visit our website today to request a visit. Once you do, we’ll arrive at your home within just a few hours and provide you with the care you need.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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