Walking pneumonia: causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

Walking pneumonia does not mean that the pneumonia can migrate from one place to another place. This popular non-medical term is often used to describe mild pneumonia that does not require bed rest or hospitalization. In many cases, you even do not recognize you may have a walking pneumonia by mistaking it for a common cold or acute bronchitis.


The cause of walking pneumonia is similar to that of common pneumonia, such as bacteria, virus, fungus, inhaled food or chemicals. It is most commonly caused by a microorganism called mycoplasma pneumoniae, which accounts for roughly up to 40% of all walking pneumonia cases. Another term for pneumonia caused by mycoplasma pneumoniae is atypical pneumonia, as the symptoms are generally different. Although it can affect person with all ages, it predominantly affect children of school age.

Walking pneumonia caused by mycoplasma pneumoniae is contagious by spreading from person-to-person contact, such as sneezing or coughing. Therefore, walking pneumonia is more prevalent in the winter in crowded places, such as schools, nursery homes, homes and dormitories. You will be contagious during the time from roughly 2 to 4 weeks before the onset of symptoms to the end of your symptoms. Thus many people even do not recognize that they are spreading this microorganism, since the contagious period starts before the onset of clinical symptoms. To make matters worse, some people even do not have apparent clinical symptoms.


The clinical symptoms of walking pneumonia are generally mild, such as mild cough with or without sputum, a low-grade fever, fatigue, voice hoarseness, chest pain, sore throat, and a mild headache. It is often misdiagnosed as a common cold or an acute viral bronchitis.


The diagnosis of walking pneumonia takes several factors into consideration: your overall status, your chest x-ray or CT scan result, blood test and arterial gas analysis result. If you have sputum, then your doctor may send a sample of the sputum to the microbiology lab to culture the microorganism.


In general, oral antibiotics are sufficient for treating walking pneumonia. The antibiotics prescribed depend on your causative agent and your doctor’s preference. Many antibiotics are available, such as ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin or doxycycline. These antibiotics are effective for mycoplasma pneumoniae, for which azithromycin is also quite effective. Your doctor may also recommend to drink more fluid and take good rest.

The prognosis for walking pneumonia is quite good. It rarely causes death. In some cases, walking pneumonia can even get better without any particular treatment. Improving your immune function, washing your hands often and non-smoking may be helpful for prevention.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.