What is Walking Pneumonia?
You feel exhausted and have a cough, perhaps a sore throat, headache, passing chills and a slight fever. Its a cold or the flu, right? Maybe or maybe not. It could be walking pneumonia.
This kind of pneumonia is different from whats known as typical pneumonia. Each year around 3 million Americans are diagnosed with typical pneumonia, and many are hospitalized for the disease. Typical pneumonia is caused by a lung infection involving bacteria, viruses or even fungi. But walking pneumonia, also known as atypical pneumonia, is caused by a lung infection with mycoplasmas, infinitesimal organisms that resemble bacteria.
Walking pneumonia was once believed to be most common in children and teenagers, but it is becoming more frequent in seniors. It is easily passed along through coughs, sneezes or direct, extended physical contact (between spouses, for example, or parents and children.) The contagious period is usually less than ten days. Unlike typical pneumonia, walking pneumonia doesnt involve hospitalization or even staying in bed, hence its name.
Some cases of walking pneumonia are never diagnosed because people don't seek medical help. But if you think you have it, see your doctor. In some cases the condition will clear up by itself; in others the symptoms may get worse if left untreated. You should also tell your doctor if any family members have symptoms like yours. Walking pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics, although in extremely mild cases, a doctor may not treat it at all. You can drink a lot of liquids and get enough rest, but dont take over-the-counter cold and flu medicines; they wont help.
Although theres no surefire way of preventing walking pneumonia, you can build up resistance by strengthening your immune system. Exercise, good nutrition and eight hours of sleep all help your body fight infection. And of course, as general rule, wash your hands frequently.
Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates.
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