What is walking pneumonia?

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Walking pneumonia in children: Overview

Walking pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by the mycoplasma bacteria. This form of pneumonia is usually mild and feels like a chest cold, but it can get worse. The symptoms of cough, headache, and a low fever start slowly. The infection is usually so mild that your child may walk around with it without knowing they have it. Most children don't get sick enough to be in the hospital. It is more common in younger people.

Walking pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics.

Your child's cough may last for a few weeks after the infection has been treated. They may have some wheezing too. These symptoms will go away over time.

Mycoplasma Pneumonia

Mycoplasma pneumonia is a lung infection caused by a bacteria-like organism (Mycoplasma pneumoniae). It is also called atypical pneumonia or "walking" pneumonia.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is a common form of pneumonia, especially among people younger than 40. Symptoms of mycoplasma pneumonia include fever, coughing, weakness, and lack of energy.

Mycoplasma pneumonia usually is treated with antibiotics.

How can you care for your child who has walking pneumonia?

  • Be safe with medicines. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with the medicines.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Ask your doctor if you can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or fussiness. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful with cough and cold medicines. Don't give them to children younger than 6, because they don't work for children that age and can even be harmful. For children 6 and older, always follow all the instructions carefully. Make sure you know how much medicine to give and how long to use it. And use the dosing device if one is included.
  • Make sure your child rests. Keep your child at home if they have a fever.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke in your house.

Walking pneumonia in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms.
  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.
  • Your child coughs up dark brown or bloody mucus (sputum).

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has a new or higher fever.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as a rash, an earache, or a sore throat.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.