What Are the Major Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is the common term for pneumonia that has mild symptoms and is typically not life-threatening. (see ref 2) Pneumonia is a lung infection that may be caused by a bacteria, a fungus or a virus. (see ref 1) According to the American Lung Association, pneumonia is most often caused by viruses, with 1/3 of all cases of pneumonia being viral. (see ref 1) Walking pneumonia may also be caused by a tiny organism, called mycoplasma, that is similar to bacteria and can cause a respiratory infection that turns into walking pneumonia. (see ref 2)

Walking pneumonia is a mild form of pneumonia that often causes coughing. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Respiratory Symptoms

Cough is one of the most common symptoms of walking pneumonia in people of any age. (see ref 2) Walking pneumonia may cause different types of cough, from a nagging dry cough to a productive, hacky cough that causes you to cough up mucus. (see ref 2) Sometimes, walking pneumonia may cause coughing up bloody, yellow- or green-colored mucus. (see ref 5) Some people may also struggle to catch their breath, especially when getting any sort of physical activity. (see ref 5)Walking pneumonia may also cause wheezing when breathing. (see ref 2)

Fever and Fatigue

Walking pneumonia commonly causes a fever of 100.4 F that accompanies a cough. (see ref 3) The range of fever can vary, from low to a high fever. Fever tends to occur along with shaking and the chills. (see ref 5) Fatigue is another major symptom of walking pneumonia, and many people who have the illness feel tired and have low energy levels. (see ref 2)

Aches and Pains

People with walking pneumonia commonly experience chest pain. (see ref 2) Called pleuritic chest pain or pleurisy, the pain is caused by inflammation of the lungs. The chest pain may feel sharp or shooting, and may extend into the shoulder. That pain often worsens when coughing or taking in a deep breath, or when exercising or exerting yourself. (see ref 6) Some people with walking pneumonia may also develop a middle ear infection. Headaches and a sore throat are also common symptoms of walking pneumonia.(see ref 2)

Seeing Your Doctor

The symptoms of walking pneumonia may be subtle, and may last for over a month. (see ref 2) It's important to see your doctor if you are coughing up bloody or colored mucus, have breathing problems or chest pain, or your symptoms worsen instead of improve. (see ref 4) Without treatment, walking pneumonia can cause complications, including respiratory failure or major inflammation in the body, in those at high risk. (see ref 1) In high-risk people, such as the elderly or those whose immune systems are weakened by other health problems, walking pneumonia can become a serious problem and needs prompt treatment. (see ref 1)

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