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Walking Pneumonia: Recovery Time, Symptoms, Treatment, Contagious

Updated on May 09, 2016

What is Walking Pneumonia?

This medical term is often used to describe a case of pneumonia that is not severe enough to require you to be hospitalized or put on bed rest. It is a medical condition that any one regardless of age, gender, or race can get but it is most commonly seen in children between the ages of five to fifteen and in elderly people. Although having walking pneumonia is not dangerous in itself it can be fatal for someone who has an immune system that is compromised. It is also called "atypical pneumonia", because it is caused by atypical bacteria, which in turns causes milder symptoms. It is normally a milder form of pneumonia. Although walking pneumonia can occur at any time of the year it is most prominent in the fall and late summer.

Signs and Symptoms

In the beginning, or early stages, walking pneumonia may have no visible symptoms but if there are symptoms they are typical of having the flu or common cold. The prominent symptoms can take fifteen to twenty-five days to appear. This is called the incubation period. The symptoms are similar in both children and adults. They will usually develop gradually and may last for several days.

Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Running a low-grade fever
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Having a dry cough that will worsen over time, may produce little mucus, and may come in violent spasms.
  • Chills
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Stiffness in your joints
  • Wheezing, labored breathing, or other breathing problems
  • Malaise
  • Appetite that is decreased
  • Lymph glands that are enlarged
  • Muscle pain
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • A lump in your neck
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Skin rash

In children, especially infants, they may be feeding poorly. In children it more common to have:

  • Chest pain and difficulty in breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough that lasts longer than seven days
  • Headaches
  • Decreased activity level

Even after the symptoms have gone away a person may have a lingering weakness that can last for a week or so. You may also get ear infections.

If you are pregnant and have the symptoms of walking pneumonia you do need to see your physician because the baby is at risk for encountering the effects of the walking pneumonia.

Diagnostic Signs

When you see your physician for a diagnosis, there are some common diagnostic signs that the physician uses to help identify and diagnose walking pneumonia, which include:

  • The characteristic throaty sound
  • Having lymph glands that are enlarged
  • In the chest x-ray there are diffuse infiltrates that are present
  • Having blood tests run that show your white blood cell count is elevated, which normally indicates an infection
  • Doing a blood culture to identify the bacteria that is responsible for causing the infection
  • Doing a sputum test in order to indicate which type of bacteria is causing the infection.


Walking pneumonia is an inflammation or infection in your lungs. The most common cause is a bacterium called Mycoplasma pneumoniae but it can be caused by a viral infection. Walking pneumonia can be caused not only by viral and bacterial infections but also fungal infections and other elements.


The diagnosis will begin with a thorough evaluation of your symptoms along with a physical exam. During the exam the physician will listen to your lung sounds using a stethoscope. They are listening for any sound that is unusual like a crackling or rumbling sound that is produced when you breathe. This is usually considered a sign of walking pneumonia. To make an accurate diagnosis the physician will do a chest x-ray along with a blood test to see if your white blood count is elevated. To see what is causing the infection they may do a sputum test.


In many cases if it is not treated it will go away on its own. Some doctors will choose this route but if you have a compromised immune system the physician will opt to treat it or if you have had the symptoms for a considerably long time and they are not getting better or they are getting worse. Some medical conditions that can compromise your immune system are asthma or any other type of lung condition. If treating it the physician will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. The antibiotics are usually in pill form but the patient gets worse they can use intravenous antibiotics. A physician may also prescribe bronchodilators, which will help to keep your bronchial tubes clear making breathing easier. Getting antibiotics is the best course of treatment as it will help to clear up the infection faster.

Home Remedies

  • Mix a tablespoon of honey and ginger juice and take it two or three times a day to help destroy the bacterial infection in your respiratory tract and lungs.
  • This is the most effective herbal treatment you can use which is a paste that you put directly on your chest to help clear your respiratory passage. Take some ginger, black pepper, chili pepper, and garlic and add enough water to make a paste. Use equal amounts of each of these spices when making the paste.
  • Eat more foods that are rich in vitamins C and A. You can also take supplements of these important vitamins. They will help to strengthen the inner linings of your lung. They will also act as a shield to help prevent the recurrence of walking pneumonia and can help to speed up recovery.
  • Taking extracts of Echinacea and thymus in the dosage recommended will help to trigger the production of your white blood cells to help get rid of the virus and bacteria plus will help to strengthen your immune system.
  • Drink herbal teas with a few drops of lemon juice several times a day for a few days.
  • Drink fresh vegetable juices.
  • You should also make sure that you are drinking a lot of fluids, especially water.
  • Use a vapor rub on your nose and chest to help open up your clogged respiratory tract.
  • Rest as much as you can.
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • For body aches and fever you can take over-the-counter pain medications

Is Walking Pneumonia Contagious?

The answer to that is a resounding yes! The bacteria that cause it can be transmitted through airborne water droplets because it thrives in your respiratory system. You can transmit it from person to person by coughing or sneezing. If you know someone who has walking pneumonia and is not on antibiotics for it you should stay away from them. If you have walking pneumonia you should make sure that you are washing your hands with antibacterial soap, especially after blowing your nose or coughing into your hands. Make sure that you cover your nose and mouth when sneezing. The virus/bacteria will stay in your body for approximately ten days even if it is not active. You should also make sure that you are not drinking or eating after someone who has walking pneumonia nor should you allow anyone to eat or drink after you. Because you are contagious when you have walking pneumonia try to avoid being around people who have a compromised immune system. Even though you can spread this disease to another person the bacteria does not usually cause the same infection but instead they may just trigger an upper respiratory infection like the flu or a cold if you have a healthy immune system.

Recovery time

Complete recovery from having walking pneumonia can take approximately a month but most of the symptoms will start to disappear within a week. Even after you no longer have the symptoms you should still take care to avoid have a relapse. Walking pneumonia can reoccur but it is usually not as severe as the first time. Up to a certain level some people may develop immunity against getting walking pneumonia but this immunity may not be permanent.


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