Doctors may order a chest X-ray to diagnose it. Antibiotics can treat walking pneumonia caused by bacteria.
This article reviews walking pneumonia, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
What is walking pneumonia?
Walking pneumonia is a common term for mild pneumonia. In medical terms, it is an atypical form of pneumonia. Various bacteria and viruses can cause atypical pneumonia. The bacteria that cause it are atypical because they are harder to detect than more typical bacteria.
People with walking pneumonia may feel sick, but they can usually function and take care of themselves. Walking pneumonia usually does not require bed rest or hospitalization. This is how he earned the name “walking”. However, it can become serious in some cases, requiring hospital treatment.
What causes walking pneumonia?
In the United States, the most common cause of walking pneumonia is the bacteria, Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae). It causes about 2 million cases each year.
M. pneumoniae is spread by droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze. If you are in close contact with someone with walking pneumonia, you can inhale these droplets. Outbreaks often occur in crowded environments, such as schools, dormitories, military barracks, hospitals, and other medical facilities.
What are the 4 stages of pneumonia?
You may sometimes hear about the stages of pneumonia:
- red hepatization
- gray hepatization
These are histopathological stages, that is, tissue analyzes in the laboratory. They describe the stages of inflammation at the tissue and cellular level. These are not clinical stages. In fact, these stages usually occur at the same time in different parts of the lung. They do not represent a chronological progression.
An Austrian physician originally described the stages as part of postmortem research in the 1800s. They are specific for lobar pneumonia, which is an infection of one or more lung sections. The most common cause of the lobar form is bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.
In contrast, walking pneumonia usually causes a more widespread infection that involves the airways and lung tissue. Thus, these tissue steps do not apply.
In order to identify the stage of pneumonia, doctors must perform a biopsy of lung tissue. It is not necessary to diagnose walking pneumonia.
What are the symptoms of walking pneumonia?
Symptoms of walking pneumonia are usually mild. They can start anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks after exposure to M. pneumoniae. Symptoms often start gradually and include:
Sore throat, runny nose, and earache may also occur.
In children under 5, symptoms may be different from those in adults and older children. They tend to have more common cold symptoms which include:
These young children may also have vomiting or diarrhea.
In some cases, walking pneumonia can become serious. Symptoms of a more serious infection include:
Even if you have a mild case of walking pneumonia, it’s important to contact your doctor to get the right treatment. Call your doctor right away if your symptoms worsen or any of the above severe symptoms occur.
How do doctors diagnose walking pneumonia?
To diagnose walking pneumonia, your doctor will take a medical history and perform an exam. As part of your medical history, tell your doctor if you have been around someone who is sick or has walking pneumonia. This information can be helpful, as walking pneumonia can be very similar to a cold or the flu.
Tests your doctor may order include:
- chest x-ray to check for inflammation in your lungs
- complete blood count to check the number of white blood cells
- pulse oximetry to measure the oxygen in your blood
Your doctor may also request a sputum sample, but it may be difficult to find M. pneumoniae. Doctors can start treatment even without obtaining this sample.
Who is at risk for walking pneumonia?
Walking pneumonia occurs more frequently during the winter months. It can affect anyone and any age group. However, it is particularly common in people between the ages of 5 and 40. People are at an increased risk of getting walking pneumonia when they live or work in crowded conditions, such as:
- military barracks
- nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe case of M. pneumoniae infection. This includes those recovering from another respiratory illness.
How do you treat walking pneumonia?
Doctors treat walking pneumonia with antibiotics. Azithromycin (Zithromax) is the most commonly used agent. It consists of a cure of 5 days. Alternatives include doxycycline (Vibramycin) and members of the fluoroquinolone class, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro). Doctors prescribe these antibiotics for 7-10 days.
Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter fever reducers, pain relievers, and cough or cold medicines.
You will probably start to feel better within 3-5 days of starting antibiotics. It is important to complete the entire course even after the symptoms improve. The cough from walking pneumonia may persist for a few weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions people frequently ask about pneumonia.
What are the first signs of walking pneumonia?
Symptoms of walking pneumonia tend to start gradually. The first symptoms are often headaches, low fever and a general feeling of being unwell.
How long does walking pneumonia last?
Once you start an antibiotic, walking pneumonia symptoms usually improve within a few days. Depending on the antibiotic, treatment can last up to 10 days. The cough may persist for several weeks or even months after treatment.
How is walking pneumonia different from ordinary pneumonia?
Walking pneumonia is usually milder than other forms of pneumonia.
Is walking pneumonia contagious?
Walking pneumonia is contagious. People can spread it by coughing or sneezing. This releases the bacteria in droplets that other people can inhale.
Is walking pneumonia serious?
Most cases of walking pneumonia are mild. However, the infection can become serious in some cases. People recovering from another respiratory illness or those with weakened immune systems are most at risk of serious infections.
Walking pneumonia is the common term for atypical pneumonia. There are several causes of atypical pneumonia. For walking pneumonia, it’s the bacteria, M. pneumoniae. Most people who get this infection have a mild case. They are generally able to take care of themselves and do not need bed rest.
Treatment is with antibiotics which usually help people feel better within a few days. The cough from walking pneumonia may persist for some time after treatment. Contact your doctor if your recovery is not going as planned.