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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Walking Pneumonia

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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.

How does the doctor know if I have walking pneumonia?

Some cases of walking pneumonia are never diagnosed because people don't seek medical help. If you do go to the doctor, the diagnosis will depend on your medical history and the results of a physical exam. The doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms and how long you have had them. The doctor may also ask you about where you work and whether anyone at home or at work is also sick.

During the physical, the doctor will listen to your chest with a stethoscope. The doctor may also ask for a chest X-ray and a blood test. There is a blood test that can specifically identify a mycoplasma infection. It's seldom done, though, unless there is a widespread outbreak that's being studied. Another blood test is used that identifies the increased presence of certain immune substances called cold agglutinins. This test won't confirm that you have walking pneumonia, but it can suggest it.

How is walking pneumonia treated?

Walking pneumonia is generally treated with antibiotics. Mild infections are often not treated because they tend to clear on their own. With treatment, most people begin to feel better within a few days.

Many over-the-counter medicines used for colds and flus may not help with complete relief of symptoms of walking pneumonia. It's important to talk with your doctor about any medicines you are taking or planning to take. It's also important to drink plenty of fluids and to give yourself time to rest.

If I've had walking pneumonia, can I get it again?

There is a certain level of immunity that occurs after someone has a case of walking pneumonia. It isn't permanent, though, and it's unclear how long it lasts. So you could at some point develop walking pneumonia again. When it does recur, it may be milder.

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