By definition, pneumonia is any kind of inflammation in the lungs. As there are many different types of pneumonia, not all are serious enough to require hospitalization or even bed rest.
So, what is walking pneumonia? Walking pneumonia is a type of lung inflammation with mild symptoms similar to that of a common cold. Not as serious as other types of pneumonia, this condition is labeled "walking" pneumonia because its symptoms do not render you bedridden for the duration of the illness.
An organism called Mycoplasma pneumoniae is the most common cause of walking pneumonia. M. pneumoniae is directly responsible for the irritation and inflammation of the lungs within the affected person.
While it usually takes prolonged exposure to spread to another person, walking pneumonia is still fairly contagious. It is passed between people through water vapor in the air. If an infected person sneezes, coughs or spits around someone else, in most cases, the non-infected person will also catch walking pneumonia.
Due to the manner in which walking pneumonia is spread, it is a common contributor to respiratory problems in kids between the ages of 5 and 15. In fact, 70 percent of pneumonia cases in children ages 9 to 15 are walking pneumonia. Often, walking pneumonia causes epidemics at school campuses and boarding schools where this contagious condition easily and quickly spreads between kids in close contact for a prolonged periods of time.
Walking pneumonia is difficult to diagnose at first, as it has a gradual onset. For the first week, the affected person may only recognize a decrease in energy. Following this, they will start to experience typical cold symptoms such as:
Whereas colds generally clear up, a person with walking pneumonia will find that he continues to get worse over the course of two weeks. Further symptoms may include:
As the illness moves to the lungs, the cough will become wetter. Without treatment, the symptoms could persist for an additional 6 weeks.
Luckily, walking pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae is very easy to treat. Some parents may want to treat the symptoms to help alleviate the irritation, but it is important to know that these are the ways in which the body repairs itself. A runny nose and cough are simply a defense mechanism for keeping the infection from spreading.
Because bacterial infections cause walking pneumonia, antibiotics, including Biaxin, Zithromax and tetracylins, are often very effective treatments. Within a week of starting antibiotic treatment, walking pneumonia patients will feel significantly better.
The best ways to avoid spreading or contracting walking pneumonia are to:
About.com (2005). Walking Pneumonia Explained. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from the About.com: Lung Diseases Web site.
Green, Alan, MD (1996). What is Walking Pneumonia? Retrieved March 23, 2008, from the Dr. Green Web site.
Parekh, Nilesh (2007). Walking Pneumonia - Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from the Buzzle.com Web site.
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions