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What Is Walking Pneumonia?


pneu_viralpneum“I’ve had this fever for 3 weeks and it won’t go away!”

You have a fever, fatigue, headache, runny nose, sore throat, or a dry cough and it’s been getting worse for almost a month. You have tried over the counter medicines and home remedies. Your co-workers and fellow classmates won’t sit next to you. Does this sound like someone you know?  You could have Mycoplasma Pneumonia and not even know it.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia is a type of “Walking Pneumonia” and is caused by bacteria. Mycoplasma is a microscopic organism that grows in the lungs of healthy people. This infection is most common in the fall and winter months.  It is easily spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing through close contacts. People in schools, dorms, colleges, clinics, and military bases are at increased risk of spreading this infection. It is typically an infection of young, healthy people. Smokers also have a higher risk.

“How can I tell if I have this?”

Most of the symptoms occur from the inflammation in the respiratory tract caused by mycoplasma. There may be a low grade fever for several weeks while the bacteria multiples. There may also be fatigue, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and a cough. Often these symptoms are annoying, but not enough for a person to miss an extended period of time from work or school.

“Can you test me for this?”

The diagnosis is usually made by clinical signs and a physical exam. Chest x-rays and a complete blood count may show evidence of an infection. Sputum cultures, from phlegm that is coughed up by the lungs, are difficult to grow, so many labs will not recommend it. There are invasive procedures such as bronchoscopy that may be needed in critically ill patients, but not for most healthy people.

“Now I know what’s wrong with me. What is the treatment.”

Depending on your medical history, a round of common antibiotics between 5 and 14 days will be the best option. Your doctor may prescribe an inhaler to help reduce wheezing or coughing. Maintaining proper hydration is very important. Quitting smoking will prevent relapses in the future. Most patients with Mycoplasma Pneumonia have a full recovery within 2 weeks and complications are rare. Talk with your doctor if you have additional questions for a proper diagnosis.

Prepared by: Neil Hizak RN-BSN

Reviewed by: Muhammad Emran, MD



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