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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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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. 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.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

Understanding Pneumonia -- Symptoms

The symptoms of pneumoniacan include: Fever, with or without chills Muscle aches Fatigue Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck Chest pain Sore throat Coughing that usually brings up only a small amount of mucus Shortness of breath Rapid breathing You may also notice nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heavy sweating, and mental confusion. Bacterial pneumonia in children may have more subtle symptoms: Labored and rapid breathing...

Read the Understanding Pneumonia -- Symptoms article > >

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, including mycoplasma
  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Other infectious agents
  • 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.

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