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Diagnosis: Walking Pneumonia

Pneumonia: a scary word, not just to spell, but to hear come out of the doctor’s mouth when you or someone you know is diagnosed with it. It’s definitely a problem for those with compromised immune systems, such as children, the elderly or those who are HIV positive but quite simply the definition of pneumonia is: an inflammation of the lungs. It can be caused by microorganisms, viruses, chemical irritants, or foreign bodies such as fungi.

‘Walking pneumonia’ is a type of pneumonia that, even if you let it go untreated, it won’t have you confined to bed—hence the ‘walking’ part. It just makes the sufferer really, really miserable. Generally, the organism to blame for all this is called Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a most common and major cause in many a respiratory infection. It can be contagious but it requires prolonged contact. Those with walking pneumonia are bothered with a hacking cough and with the cough being worse at night, people sleeping in the same room would be most vulnerable.

The onset of walking pneumonia is gradual. A person may feel like they are getting a cold, have a decrease in energy level or a fever as the first of the symptoms appear (with little improvement) over a period of 10 days to 2 weeks as the pneumonia settles into the chest. A dry cough can persist up to 6 weeks after.

Be prepared to be given a prescription for erythromycin, clarithromycin (Biaxin), azithromycin (Zithromax), or tetracyclines. These are the most successful in treating the Mycoplasma that wreaks havoc with the ciliated (which means fringy-like) cells in lung tissue. Sometimes you may be prescribed additional medications to help deal with other symptoms, like fever or a cough, that’s keeping you awake at night but only if that symptom is unbearably uncomfortable.

Taking it easy, drinking lots of fluids, and taking the tetracycline will knock out that walkin’ pneumonia and have you up and runnin’ in 5-7 days. If not, it’s time for a trip back to the doc.


This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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