Risk Factors

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

Young children and older adults are at increased risk

People at increased risk for pneumococcal disease include children younger than 5 years old and adults 65 years or older.

Some children are at even higher risk than others

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

Many conditions increase a person’s risk

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

  • Alcoholism
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Chronic heart, kidney, liver, or lung disease
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Cochlear implant
  • Decreased immune function from disease or drugs (i.e., immunocompromising condition)
  • Diabetes mellitus

Chronic lung conditions that increase someone’s risk include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and asthma.

People with a cochlear implant appear to be at increased risk for pneumococcal meningitis specifically.

Immunocompromising conditions

Examples of immunocompromising conditions include:

  • Chronic renal failure or nephrotic syndrome
  • Congenital or acquired asplenia or splenic dysfunction
  • Congenital or acquired immunodeficiency
  • Disease or condition treated with immunosuppressive drugs or radiation therapy*
  • HIV infection
  • Sickle cell disease or other hemoglobinopathies

* This includes Hodgkin disease, leukemias, lymphomas, malignant neoplasms, and solid organ transplant.