Walking pneumonia or atypical pneumonia is a milder version of pneumonia, which may not require hospitalization and specific treatments. This lung condition is not as serious and scary as normal pneumonia, and in many cases, people who have it may not even know it. Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by different infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mycoplasma. It may also be caused by certain chemicals and inhaled food. Walking pneumonia, on the other hand, is mostly caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
Walking pneumonia can affect people of any age, including children. The most commonly affected individuals are older children and adults below the age of 40-years-old. The risk of getting a mycoplasma infection is greater for people living and working in crowded places, like schools, prisons, and shelters. Walking pneumonia is a contagious disease that spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. The infectious agent spreads through the droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person to another. The spread of the disease is slow, even in a crowd. Although the infection is seen throughout the year, it is more common during the fall and late summer. An infected person may be able to spread the disease for less than ten days during infection. Experts are of the opinion that close contact with an infected person for a long duration may result in spread. Outbreaks of walking pneumonia are reported from different parts once in four to eight years.
The symptoms of this lung infection develops slowly after about two weeks of initial exposure to the mycoplasma. It takes two to five days for the symptoms to appear completely.
The most common symptoms of walking pneumonia are:
- Cough with little mucus
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat
- Weakness that persists even after the disappearance of other symptoms
- Rashes on skin
- Ear infection
In some cases, the symptoms are so mild that the infected person may not go to the doctor for diagnosis or treatment. Antibiotics are normally recommended for treating this condition. Those who have mild infection and symptoms may not require any specific treatment. They may resolve on its own. The symptoms of walking pneumonia may not be alleviated with many of the over-the-counter medications generally used for cold and flu. Adequate rest and drinking plenty of fluids is what is important in this condition. One should always discuss with the doctor before taking any of the usual medications for the symptoms similar to that of walking pneumonia. Regular exercise, and hygienic habits like washing hands frequently and covering mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing may all help to prevent walking pneumonia.