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Walking Pneumonia (Mycoplasma Pneumonia)

What is walking pneumonia?

Healthcare provider listening to patient's back with a stethoscope

Pneumonia is an infection of one or both of the lungs. It's often caused by a virus or bacteria. Walking pneumonia is caused by a certain bacteria (mycoplasma pneumoniae). The bacteria causes illness by damaging the lining of the throat, lungs, and windpipe (respiratory system). The illness is spread when a person coughs or sneezes small droplets of the bacteria into the air.

Pneumonia can be very serious. This is especially true for infants, young children, and older adults. And also for those with other long-term health problems or weak immune systems. In otherwise healthy adults, pneumonia can be mild. Walking pneumonia is a mild form.

What are the symptoms of walking pneumonia?

Symptoms may include:

  • Dry, hacking cough (most common symptom)

  • Tiredness

  • Fever

  • Headaches

  • Chills

  • Sweating

  • Chest pain

  • Ear pain

  • Sore throat

How is walking pneumonia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and current symptoms. He or she will also examine you. You may also have tests including:

  • Imaging tests. A chest X-ray may be done.

  • Lab tests. Blood tests and sputum cultures may be done.

How is walking pneumonia treated?

Since it's caused by bacteria, antibiotics are often prescribed.

Your healthcare provider may also advise medicines, either prescription or over-the-counter, and other ways to ease symptoms such as:

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower your fever and lessen headache or other pain

  • Cough medicine to loosen mucus or reduce coughing

  • Bedrest or reduced activity

  • Increased fluids to loosen mucus and replace lost fluids from sweating

  • Don't smoke. And stay away from secondhand smoke. Tobacco damages your lung's ability to fight off infection,

Always check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines.

What are possible complications of walking pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is often mild, and it often goes away without treatment. But complications can occur. They include:

  • Severe pneumonia

  • Serious infections in other parts of the body

  • Anemia or a low red blood cell count

  • Kidney problems

  • Skin conditions

What can I do to prevent walking pneumonia?

To prevent others from getting walking pneumonia:

  • Try to stay away from other people if you are coughing a lot.

  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. It's easy to pass along this infection to other people through coughing. And also through contact with surfaces that you cough near.

  • Wipe off surfaces with antibacterial or disinfectant products. This includes phones, remote controls, and doorknobs.

  • Always put used tissues in a waste basket.

  • Tell people to wash their hands if they touch things you have coughed near.

  • Wash your hands often. Wash them before handling food or objects that others may touch. Use a separate towel or paper towels for drying. Scrub with warm water and soap for up to 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines. These will help even if there is no vaccine to prevent walking pneumonia infections. Take steps to prevent colds and other lung infections.

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.