Risk Factors

Many health conditions and other factors can increase someone’s risk for pneumococcal disease, including severe infections.

woman using an inhaler

Adults with asthma are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease.

Conditions and other factors that increase the risk for invasive pneumococcal disease include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Chronic heart, lung, liver, or renal disease
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Cochlear implant
  • Decreased immune function from disease or drugs
  • Diabetes
  • Functional or anatomic asplenia, including sickle cell disease

Chronic lung conditions that increase someone’s risk include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and asthma (in adults) or asthma treated with high-dose steroids (in children).

Persons with a cochlear implant appear to be at increased risk of pneumococcal meningitis.

Additional information on risk factors and children

Children with HIV infection or functional or anatomic asplenia, particularly sickle cell disease, are at high risk for invasive disease. Some studies report rates more than 50 times higher than those among children of the same age without these conditions.

Experts do not know why, but children of certain racial and ethnic groups also have increased rates of disease:

  • Alaska Native people
  • African American people
  • Certain American Indian people

Research shows that young children attending childcare are at increased risk for invasive pneumococcal disease and acute otitis media.