Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heartburn/GERD Health Center

Font Size

Stomach Acid Drugs May Raise Pneumonia Risk

Risk From Acid-Suppressing Drugs Greatest in Frailest Patients

How Acid-Suppressing Drugs Promote Infection continued...

"Now doctors need to think differently about lung infections," Martin tells WebMD. "What we will do now, maybe we'll be telling people taking PPIs to take mild pneumonia symptoms more seriously. Now you say to a patient, 'Well, the fever is not that high, you are not short of breath, it is nothing major; go home and take a day off, see if you feel better.' Now, in the context of this study, if a person is taking these drugs, maybe we should be taking an X-ray to make sure they don't have pneumonia."

If you're taking acid-suppressing drugs, Martin says, it's a good idea to know the early symptoms of pneumonia:

  • Fever, usually over 100.5 degrees and up
  • Cough, especially a wet cough with phlegm production
  • Chest pain, especially on one side, that is made worse with deep breathing
  • Shortness of breath without exertion

"Fever should go with some other symptoms," Martin says. "The real pneumonia symptoms we think of are fever and cough. Shortness of breath can be another symptom, but it is not always there. And shortness of breath can have a lot of causes, so it's not an indicator of pneumonia all by itself."

Chest pain, Martin notes, can also be a sign of the kinds of stomach problems treated with acid-suppressing drugs. So can a cough, notes gastroenterologist Peura. In fact, Peura says, it's no secret that people with untreated reflux disease are at increased risk of pneumonia.

"How much more pneumonia would the patients in the Laheij study have had if they not been treated?" Peura asks. "Severe reflux can be associated with pneumonia. ... Yes, those at highest risk of pneumonia appeared to be those taking the highest doses [of acid-suppressing drugs]. But maybe that is because their reflux was more severe. Was it reflux causing the pneumonia -- in which case acid suppression with a PPI was the appropriate treatment -- or was acid suppression putting people at risk for pneumonia?"

Though the Laheij study strongly suggests a link between regular use of acid-suppressing drugs and pneumonia, it does not offer definitive proof. Still, all of the experts who spoke with WebMD urge people to take the drugs only as needed.

Today on WebMD

Woman eating pizza
How it starts, and how to stop it.
man with indigestion
Get lifestyle and diet tips.
woman shopping for heartburn relief
Medication options.
man with heartburn
Symptoms of both.
digestive health
Heartburn or Heart Attack
Top 10 Heartburn Foods
Is it Heartburn or Gerd
digestive myths
Extreme Eats
graphic of esophageal area