Walking Pneumonia

Kristin Hall, FNP
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 7/27/2020

When you’re sick, sometimes it doesn’t matter what your healthcare provider says you have — you’re just miserable and would do anything to feel better. 

You’re tired, your body aches, you can’t decide whether you’re freezing or way too hot, and you just feel uncomfortable in your own skin. 

While walking pneumonia is generally a mild illness, despite its name, it can lay you out. 

And ignoring the signs that you’re sick or soldiering through it could put you at greater risk of becoming even sicker and winding up in the hospital. 

Talking to a healthcare professional is the first step in understanding what’s going wrong in your body — whether you’re suffering from pneumonia, a cold or something worse. 

What Is Walking Pneumonia? 

Walking pneumonia is known as an “atypical pneumonia” and is most often caused by the bacteria called mycoplasma pneumonia

It’s referred to as “atypical” because it’s caused by different bacteria than the most common pneumonia-causing bacteria, and because the symptoms are generally more mild.

Like pneumonia, walking pneumonia is an infection of the lower respiratory system, or your lungs. 

Mycoplasma pneumonia is most common in younger people and those living and working in crowded conditions

But mycoplasma pneumonia isn’t the only type of atypical pneumonia. Chlamydophila pneumonia and legionella pneumophila (which causes Legionnaires’ disease) are other bacteria that can cause atypical pneumonia.

Unlike these and typical pneumonia, walking pneumonia, caused by mycoplasma pneumoniae bacterium is a type of pneumonia that can be so mild that it goes undetected.

Walking Pneumonia Symptoms 

While walking pneumonia is considered more mild than other forms of pneumonia, and though it can even go undetected in some cases, it can also cause seriously unpleasant symptoms. 

It can feel like a severe chest cold or general respiratory infection.

Symptoms of walking pneumonia may include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Chills

Less common symptoms of walking pneumonia include: ear and eye pain, muscle aches, a lump in your neck, rapid breathing or a rash. 

These symptoms may arise slowly and last a long time, though this could be because they’re generally mild, making it easier to go about normal daily activities before seeking medical advice.

You could be at greater risk for contracting walking pneumonia if you work or live in crowded environments, as coming in close contact with an infected person can easily get you sick. 

Also, you could be at a greater risk if you have a compromised immune system or smoke.

Treatment for Walking Pneumonia 

If you’re experiencing unpleasant symptoms as a result of walking pneumonia, you may be able to manage them at home, conservatively, with self care and bed rest. 

Fever and pain can be managed with over-the-counter nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids can also ease your symptoms and help your body heal.

If you seek out medical treatment, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to help treat your pneumonia. Take them until they are gone, even if you begin to feel better. 

In severe cases, you may require hospitalization.

People with preexisting lung disease are more likely to suffer from complications associated with walking pneumonia, and should seek a healthcare professional’s care for their symptoms.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.