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Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia

Symptoms of walking pneumonia are similar to the flu.

A high fever is a common symptom of walking pneumonia. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
A high fever is a common symptom of walking pneumonia.

Walking pneumonia is a relatively mild form of pneumonia caused by a microscopic organism. Because the illness is spread through contact with an infected person, it's important to recognize the symptoms of walking pneumonia to avoid infecting others. This article gives a brief overview of this mild form of pneumonia.

What people refer to as walking pneumonia is actually mycoplasma pneumonia. Because those who have walking pneumonia usually aren't sick enough to be hospitalized or confined to bed at home, the condition came to be known as walking pneumonia. In fact, walking pneumonia symptoms may be so mild that some people don't even realize they are sick.

Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia

Walking pneumonia is a lung infection caused by microscopic organisms called Mycoplasma pneumonia that, according to MedlinePlus (an online medical source maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine), are the cause for 15 to 50 percent of pneumonia cases in adults.

The symptoms of walking pneumonia occur gradually, often over a period of weeks, and are quite similar to flu symptoms. The most common symptoms of walking pneumonia include cough, fever, chest pain, headache, sore throat, chills and excessive perspiration. However, some people may experience less common symptoms, like a rash, skin lesions, pain in the eyes or ears, achy muscles, stiff joints, and rapid breathing. A lump in the throat due to enlarged lymph nodes is another rare symptom of walking pneumonia.

People at Risk for Walking Pneumonia

While anyone can contract walking pneumonia, it is more likely to affect young adults and school-age children. Since the symptoms of walking pneumonia spread easily among groups of people, those who spend a lot of time in crowded areas, like schools or airports, are more likely to contract the illness. Those with compromised immune systems, such as infants and the elderly, should especially avoid direct contact with people who have walking pneumonia symptoms.

Walking Pneumonia Treatment

A visit to the doctor is recommended for anyone who has symptoms of walking pneumonia. A doctor may order tests such as a sputum culture, chest X-ray, or blood test for mycoplasma antibodies to confirm a diagnosis.

The symptoms of walking pneumonia may not require any medical treatment other than resting and drinking an adequate amount of fluids. For some cases, however, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics such as erythromycin, clarithromycin or azithromycin to speed recovery. Even if a patient's symptoms are mild, he or she should still seek medical advice, as several complications can occur. These include an ear infection, skin rash, hemolytic anemia and even severe pneumonia.

Preventing Walking Pneumonia

To reduce the risk of spreading symptoms of walking pneumonia, mouths should be covered when coughing or sneezing. Walking pneumonia can't always be prevented, but people can take steps to reduce their chances of infection. Keeping the immune system strong with proper diet and exercise, washing hands thoroughly and often, and not smoking are just a few ways to lower the risk of contracting walking pneumonia.

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