What is Walking Pneumonia?

Mary McMahon

Walking pneumonia or atypical pneumonia is a mild form of pneumonia which is characterized by a state of relatively good health on the part of the patient. In fact, most cases will resolve on their own if left untreated, and sometimes doctors allow it to do just that. Treatments are available for prolonged cases, or cases which look like they might become more serious without treatment, such as infections in people with compromised immune systems.

The most common form of walking pneumonia typically causes stomach pain.
The most common form of walking pneumonia typically causes stomach pain.

The most common cause of walking pneumonia is a bacterium known as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, although this condition can also be viral in origin. The condition is caused by an inflammation of the lungs which causes the victim to experience a harsh cough, often combined with a fever, stomach pains, and sometimes chills or aches and pains. It typically takes one to three weeks from the onset of infection for walking pneumonia to emerge.

Fever may be a symptom of walking pneumonia.
Fever may be a symptom of walking pneumonia.

When someone has a case of walking pneumonia, he or she usually feels well enough to get around, with a sense of being generally run-down. Many people are not even aware that they have pneumonia, as their immune systems successfully fight the bacteria off on their own. However, people are still contagious, so they can pass the bacterium on to others.

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Walking pneumonia can become an issue in someone with asthma or other lung conditions, as the inflammation may exacerbate breathing and lung problems. In these individuals, treatment is strongly recommended, and typically antibiotics are prescribed to kill the bacteria, along with bronchiodilators to keep the bronchial tubes clear, ensuring that the patient does not struggle to breathe. Antibiotics may also be given to patients with persistent cases of walking pneumonia.

Some doctors feel that this infection should be allowed to run its course, as overuse of antibiotics can be dangerous. Patients are usually encouraged to drink lots of fluids, eat well, and exercise, if possible, to stimulate and support the immune system. They may also be advised to stay away from people with compromised immune systems.

Some measures can be used to prevent a case of walking pneumonia, such as washing your hands, ensuring that people cover their mouths while coughing, and eating well to keep the body healthy. These measures will also go a long way towards preventing other sources of bacterial and viral infection.

Walking pneumonia usually involves an infection in the lungs.
Walking pneumonia usually involves an infection in the lungs.

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Discussion Comments


I've always heard people talking a bad cold turning into walking pneumonia, but I don't know if it's actually possible. Colds are usually caused by viruses, and according to this article walking pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria. It's more of a lung infection. I've had it before, and I usually didn't have all of those nasal and sinus congestion problems associated with a cold. I mostly had a hacking cough that wouldn't go away.

My biggest problem is that walking pneumonia is contagious, and my job involves a lot of contact with people. If I ever get diagnosed with walking pneumonia, I usually volunteer to stay home until I feel better. I especially don't want to pass on walking pneumonia to children, and there a lot of them who come into my restaurant.


I have probably had walking pneumonia a few times and didn't know it. The walking pneumonia symptoms described in the article sound really familiar to me. The one time I did actually go to the emergency room, the doctor prescribed some antibiotics and told me to stay home from work if I could. If I had to go into public places, he urged me not to shake hands with anyone and cover my face when I coughed.

Other than the severe coughing and washed out feeling, I could still do just about anything I felt like doing.

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