Is Walking Pneumonia Contagious?

Walking pneumonia is a non-medical term used to refer to a mild form of pneumonia. The sickness does not result in severe problems that require hospitalization or bed rest, or cause the patient to take leave of absence from school or work. Patients can be noticed walking around; therefore the name.

Causes

Pneumonia is a disease characterized by serious infection of the lungs by different pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc., or due to inhalation of harmful chemicals or even food. As opposed to this, walking pneumonia is caused due to infection by a bacteria-type organism called mycoplasma pneumoniae.

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Symptoms of walking pneumonia

The symptoms of walking pneumonia typically make an appearance fifteen to 25 days after exposure to the mycoplasma. The signs then develop gradually over a period of two to four days.

A few of the commonly occurring symptoms of walking pneumonia are as follows:

  • Exhaustion
  • Sore throat
  • Chills, fever, and other mild flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Patients may experience violent bursts of coughing with very little or no expulsion of mucus
  • Prolonged weakness that tends to continue even after most symptoms fade away
  • On rare occasions, affected individuals may suffer from skin rashes, anemia, and/or ear infections.

Walking pneumonia can occur across all age groups. However, the illness is usually observed in older children and adults aged below 40 years.

Is walking pneumonia contagious?

Walking pneumonia is a contagious condition. It can spread from an infected person to another after a healthy individual comes into contact with the infected throat and nose droplets released by the sick person during coughing or sneezing.The contagious nature of walking pneumonia is one of the main reasons for its prevalence in crowded areas like schools, prisons, or homeless shelters.

Different studies have indicated that walking pneumonia typically occurs after prolonged and close contact with an infected individual. Still, outbreaks of the illness happen every four to eight years. During such times, nearly half the reported cases of pneumonia are diagnosed as walking pneumonia.

Most instances of walking pneumonia are generally recorded in the late summer and fall months. It may however be noted that the illness can occur all through the year, without following any kind of pattern.
Also, despite being contagious, walking pneumonia has a tendency to spread slowly. In most cases, the period of contagion lasts for only 10 days or less.

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Diagnosis 

A lot of patients do not consult a doctor when they are sick. Thus, these instances of walking pneumonia are never recorded.

The doctor will peruse through the medical history of the patient during diagnosis. He/she will ask varied questions about the symptoms and the time they first appeared. Additional information, such as presence of any illnesses at home or work, may also be asked.

A physical examination may include checking the heartbeat via a stethoscope, breathing exercises, etc. If there is a current outbreak of walking pneumonia then the doctor may also ask for blood tests and an x-ray. The former will provide empirical data about the presence of pathogens, while the latter will reveal information about any lung damage.

Treatment of walking pneumonia

In most cases, minor infections are usually not treated as the symptoms fade away on their own. Patients may only need to sufficiently rest and drink lots of water and other fluids.

Distressing instances of walking pneumonia are treated with antibiotics. The symptoms will typically alleviate a few days after intake of medications.

The use of non-prescription cold and flu medicines may not result in full recovery from walking pneumonia. Hence, patients need to seek medical attention whenever they experience abnormal symptoms.

It may be noted that people who have previously suffered from walking pneumonia may develop partial and temporary immunity towards it. However, doctors do not know the exact duration of such immunity. Fortunately, when walking pneumonia recurs it generally tends to be milder than before.

Prevention of walking pneumonia

Walking pneumonia does not have a vaccine. Hence, complete prevention of the illness is not possible. People can however follow the below listed preventive and precautionary steps to avoid or decrease the risk to developing the infection:

  • Exercise regularly, consume balanced and healthy meals, and get adequate rest and sleep. This will help strengthen the immune system and the overall health, which in turn can efficiently fight off infections.
  • Wash the hands on a regular basis; if possible, with an antiseptic soap. Such practices will wash away 98 to 100 percent of the germs. You may also follow other normal guidelines of good personal hygiene.
  • Do not smoke/quit smoking. This is because smoking damages the lungs and increases the risk to pulmonary and other infections, including walking pneumonia.
  • Cover the mouth whenever you cough or sneeze. This will help prevent the spread of pathogens, if any, to others. Contact with infected droplets released into the air during sneezing or coughing is the most common way to contract walking pneumonia.
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