How Long Does Walking Pneumonia Last?

Find Out Why It's Called "Walking" Pneumonia

woman nursing a cold at home
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With the word walking in its name, you may wonder, "So how long does walking pneumonia last if I don't even have to stay in bed?" The answer? Not all that long compared with people who develop more serious pneumonias, which make people very sick.

Walking pneumonia (also called atypical pneumonia) is any mild pneumonia that lets the person who has it walk around and perform at least some daily tasks while still getting needed bedrest.

In fact, walking pneumonia can have such mild symptoms, some people who have it don't know it. Sure, they're congested and coughing, but it's not severe enough to see a doctor about, so they're never diagnosed.

Walking pneumonia is very common, affecting about 2 million people in the U.S. every year.

Causes

Walking pneumonia is most often associated with Mycoplasma pneumonia, because this type of pneumonia typically causes mild symptoms. However, a mild case of viral or bacterial pneumonia may also be referred to as walking pneumonia.

How Does It Spread?

Similar to other respiratory diseases, including the common cold, walking pneumonia is spread when a person who’s sick sneezes or coughs and people nearby inhale the airborne water droplets – along with the bacteria or virus they contain.

Children often get walking pneumonia in school and bring it home to family members. The incubation period (amount of time between exposure and the first sign of symptoms) is usually between two and three weeks.

Symptoms

The symptoms of walking pneumonia usually last between one and three weeks. Although the term mild is often applied to this illness, that doesn't mean the symptoms of walking pneumonia aren't bothersome. Cough and congestion are common; they just may not be bad enough to keep you in bed or cause you to seek treatment.

They definitely aren't as bad as typical symptoms of pneumonia.

Treatment

As noted, walking pneumonia often goes away on its own without treatment. However, it may go away faster if it's treated with antibiotics -- but only if it's caused by bacteria; antibiotics are not helpful for treating viral pneumonia.

Medications. Talk to your doctor about appropriate medications to take if you are diagnosed with walking pneumonia. Antibiotics may or may not be prescribed, but you may be able to take over-the-counter (OTC) products to manage your symptoms.

Treating a Cough. Be cautious about taking cough suppressants when you have any type of pneumonia. Suppressing a cough can make it more difficult to get mucus out of your lungs, increasing the chance that the pneumonia will worsen or last longer.

  • Do not take OTC or prescription cough suppressants without talking to your doctor about it first.

Can Walking Pneumonia Symptoms Get Worse?

Yes, they can. If you're diagnosed with walking pneumonia and later feel your symptoms getting worse, or if you develop new symptoms that are more severe, contact your doctor again.

These could be signs that you've developed a more serious type of pneumonia or another type of infection "on top" of your walking pneumonia. Keep in mind that, although walking pneumonia doesn't always require it, other infections may need treatment.

So, how long does walking pneumonia last? From a few weeks to a few months, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Source:

“Atypical pneumonia (walking pneumonia).” ClevelandClinic.Org (2015).

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