Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Walking Pneumonia

"Walking pneumonia" sounds like it could be a character in a sci-fi horror flick. Although this form of infectious pneumonia can make you miserable, it's actually the least scary kind of pneumonia. That's because it's a mild pneumonia and does not generally require hospitalization. In fact, you could have walking pneumonia and not even know it. Here is information about what causes this illness, how it spreads, and what you can do to avoid it.

What is walking pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is a non-medical term to describe a mild case of pneumonia. It can also be called atypical pneumonia because the disease is different from more serious cases of pneumonia caused by typical bacteria.

Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs that often results from a lung infection. Lots of things can cause pneumonia, including:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Other infectious agents, such as mycoplasma
  • Chemicals
  • Inhaled food

Walking pneumonia is often the result of a lung infection from a bacterial microorganism called Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

People who have walking pneumonia are seldom confined to bed or need to be hospitalized. Some may even feel well enough go to work and carry on with other regular routines, just as they might with a cold.

Who gets walking pneumonia and how is it spread?

Anyone at any age can get walking pneumonia. Walking pneumonia from mycoplasma is most common, though, in older children and adults younger than 40.

People who live and work in crowded places, such as schools, homeless shelters, and prisons have a higher risk of contracting the disease. That's because walking pneumonia is contagious. It's spread when someone comes in contact with droplets from the nose and throat of someone who has it. That commonly happens when the person with walking pneumonia sneezes or coughs.

Cases of walking pneumonia are most common in the late summer and fall. But infections can occur with no particular pattern throughout the year. And, even though the disease is contagious, it spreads slowly. The contagious period in most cases lasts less than 10 days. Researchers also think it takes prolonged close contact with an infected person for someone else to develop walking pneumonia; still, there are widespread outbreaks every four to eight years. When those outbreaks occur, walking pneumonia can account for as many as one out of every two cases of pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of walking pneumonia?

Symptoms generally appear 15 to 25 days after exposure to the mycoplasma and develop slowly over a period of two to four days. Symptoms include:

  • Cough that may come in violent spasms but produce very little mucus
  • Mild flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Lingering weakness that may persist after other symptoms go away

Some people with walking pneumonia may also have an ear infection, anemia, or a skin rash.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

Hot Tub Disease
Article
Lung Disease Health Check
HEALTH CHECK
 
Cigarette butts in ashtray
Article
Household Hazards For People With Copd
Article
 

Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
Copd Myth Fact Quiz
QUIZ
 
Living With Copd
VIDEO
Energy Boosting Foods
SLIDESHOW
 

cigarette butts snuffed out in ashtray
SLIDESHOW
Healthy Home Health Check
TOOL
 
Senior woman stretching
Article
Diagnosing Copd
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections