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Walking Pneumonia Signs and Symptoms

Walking Pneumonia Signs and Symptoms

Walking pneumonia is a minor lung infection caused by the Mycoplasma pneumoniae organism, and in most cases, does not require hospitalization. Here is more on its signs and symptoms...
Loveleena Rajeev
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
When you hear the term walking pneumonia, the first thing that tends to come to your mind is long and tiring days that need to be spent in a hospital. This is because, pneumonia is a serious, often life-threatening lung condition, that requires immediate treatment and hospitalization, especially when it affects those individuals with weak immune system, like the elderly and infants.
This condition is caused by the inflammation of the lungs due to infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Exposure to certain chemicals and food poisoning can also trigger off a lung infection.
Unlike the serious form of pneumonia, walking pneumonia, also known as atypical pneumonia, is a mild version of pneumonia. We'll have a closer look at the signs and symptoms that are related to walking pneumonia, to understand it better.
What is Walking Pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is caused by the bacterial organism known as mycoplasma pneumoniae, and is hence also referred to with this name. The term walking pneumonia stems from the fact that people with this mild form of infection are not sick enough to be hospitalized. They can continue with their daily activities without having to take bed rest or undergo serious medical treatment. However, this form of lung infection is highly contagious, and can spread from one person to another, especially in places like schools, day cares, work places, and prisons. This is the reason why it is also known as community-acquired pneumonia. Identifying the symptoms of this infection can help in providing immediate treatment and preventing the spread of this contagious infection.
Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia
Commonly observed in children in the age group of five to fifteen, and elderly people, walking pneumonia signs and symptoms often mimic the symptoms of common cold and flu. The early symptoms can often be seen after two to three weeks of incubation period in an individual who has been exposed to the bacteria. It starts off with mild symptoms like a low-grade fever and exhaustion, followed by cold and flu-like symptoms such as headaches, runny nose, sore throat, and sometimes even fever. Within two weeks, the cold gets worse, and the disease settles into the chest, resulting in moist cough and possible hoarseness. If the cough lingers for more than three weeks, the sputum gets streaked with blood.
☛ Respiratory Infection: The individual affected with this infection will have croup, which is a violent, hacking cough that may produce little or no mucus. The cough can progress from a dry cough to productive cough with mucus. This cough often worsens at night. Nasal congestion, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and sore throat are some of the symptoms of walking pneumonia. Once the cold gets worse and the disease settles into the chest, it can cause chest congestion and pain. In some cases, people with walking pneumonia may have bronchitis, which is caused by the inflammation of the mucous membrane of the bronchi.
☛ Muscle Aches and Stiffness: Walking pneumonia can lead to a sudden decline in the energy levels of a person, leading to extreme lethargy and tiredness. This weakness is persistent even when the symptoms of the infections have receded. The low energy and fatigue can be accompanied by a loss of appetite, sweating, muscle aches, and stiffness in the joints. Skin rashes and lesions are also observed in certain cases.
☛ Fever and Chills: Some of the symptoms are similar to cold and flu, including a low-grade fever and chills. The patient may also complain of a rapid heartbeat, uneasiness, and headaches.
Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are some of the symptoms of walking pneumonia. Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration as well.
Ear Pain and Infection: The symptoms of walking pneumonia are persistent for a long time, which can lead to certain ear infections, also known as otitis media. This can lead to ear pain, soreness, and difficulty in hearing and sleeping.
Diagnostic Signs
Although walking pneumonia does not require hospitalization and treatment methods similar to that of other types of pneumonia, it definitely needs to be treated if it has been lingering on for a long time. The diagnosis is done based on the patterns and occurrences of the patient's symptoms. The doctor will conduct a physical examination and check the patient's breathing pattern. Some of the common diagnostic signs of the infection identified by the doctor include:
  • A characteristic throaty sound
  • Enlarged lymph glands
  • Diffuse infiltrates present in a chest X-ray
  • Blood tests with elevated white blood cells, indicating an infection
  • Blood culture to identify the bacteria responsible for the infection
  • Sputum test to indicate the type of bacteria that has caused the infection
Treatment Options

The treatment course includes a combination of a lot of rest, intake of fluids, and antibiotics like clarithromycin, erythromycin, azithromycin, and tetracycline. Antibiotics help in stalling the spread of the disease, only if they have been started early in the course of the illness. Young children with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to being infected with the contagious bacteria.
Besides the antibiotics, one can also place a damp rag on the forehead and other areas of the body, or take a bath if fever is prevalent. This will help in bringing the body temperature down. To relieve cough, prop the head up on a pillow while resting the body at an inclined position. This will enable the fluid in the lungs to drain out.
Walking pneumonia can occur at any time during the year, and can spread from one person to another through respiratory secretions, coughs and sneezes. Although the signs and symptoms of walking pneumonia are mild, it is best to consult a doctor, as an infected individual is contagious for around twenty days, during which he or she can pass on the infection via contact with cough droplets.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.