What Is Walking Pneumonia? It can seem like kids pick up one bug after another. One week it's a runny nose, the next a sore throat, or both. Most of the time, these bugs only last for about a week. But those that last longer can sometimes turn into walking pneumonia. Walking pneumonia, or atypical pneumonia, is a less serious form of the lung infection pneumonia. It's caused by Mycoplasma bacteria , and causes cold-like symptoms, a low-grade fever, and a hacking cough. Most kids with this form of pneumonia will not feel sick enough to stay at home — hence, the name "walking" pneumonia. But even a child who feels fine needs to stay at home for a few days until antibiotic treatment kicks in and symptoms improve. What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia? Colds that last longer than 7 to 10 days or respiratory illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can develop into walking pneumonia. Symptoms can come on suddenly or take longer to appear. Those that start slowly tend to be more severe. Here's what to look for: a fever of 101°F (38.5°C) or below headache, chills, sore throat, and other cold or flu-like symptoms fast breathing or breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds labored breathing that makes the rib muscles retract (when muscles under the ribcage or between ribs draw inward with each breath) hacking cough ear pain chest pain or stomach pain malaise (feeling of discomfort) vomiting loss of appetite (in older kids) or poor feeding (in infants) rash joint pain Symptoms usually depend on where the infection is concentrated. A child whose infection is in the top or middle part of the lungs will probably have labored breathing. Another whose infection is in the lower part of the lungs (near the belly) may have no breathing problems, but may have an upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting. How Is Walking Pneumonia Diagnosed? Walking pneumonia is usually diagnosed through a physical examination. The doctor will check your child's breathing and listen for a hallmark crackling sound that often indicates walking pneumonia. If needed, a chest X-ray or tests of mucus samples from the throat or nose might be done to confirm the diagnosis. How Is Walking Pneumonia Treated? Antibiotics are an effective treatment for walking pneumonia. A 5- to 10-day course of oral antibiotics is usually recommended. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, make sure your child takes them on schedule for as long as directed to recover more quickly. Once on antibiotics, your child has a minimal risk of passing the illness on to other family members. But encourage everyone in your household to wash their hands well and often. Don't let your child share drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels, or toothbrushes. Wash your hands after touching any used tissues. Also make sure that your kids are up to date on their immunizations to help protect them from other infections. How Can I Help My Child Feel Better? Your child should drink fluids throughout the day, especially if he or she has a fever. Ask the doctor before you use a medicine to treat a cough. Cough suppressants stop the lungs from clearing mucus, which might not be helpful for lung infections like walking pneumonia. If your child has chest pain, try placing a heating pad or warm compress on the area. Take your child's temperature at least once each morning and each evening. Call the doctor if it goes above 102°F (38.9°C) in an older infant or child, or above 100.4°F (38°C) in an infant under 6 months of age. With treatment, most types of bacterial pneumonia go away within 1 to 2 weeks. Coughing can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to stop. Back to Articles Related Articles Word! Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, usually caused by viruses or bacteria. Read More First Aid: Common Cold Kids can get up to eight colds a year - or more. The common cold sends more kids to the doctor than any other illness. Read More First Aid: Coughing Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe or lingering cough requires medical treatment, but many coughs are caused by viruses that just need to run their course. Read More Coping With Colds Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on colds and ways to feel better when you catch one. Read More Pneumonia Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can usually be treated without a hospital stay. Read More X-Ray Exam: Chest A chest X-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation to take a picture of a person's chest, including the heart, lungs, diaphragm, lymph nodes, upper spine, ribs, collarbone, and breastbone. Read More Respiratory Syncytial Virus Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of this contagious infection. Read More Coughing Coughs are a common symptom, but most aren't a sign of a serious condition. Learn about different coughs, how to help your child feel better, and when to call your doctor. Read More Pneumonia Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by different types of germs, most commonly viruses. Read about symptoms and treatment. Read More Lungs and Respiratory System Each day you breathe about 20,000 times. Find out more about the lungs and breathing process. Read More Colds Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States - and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school. Read More What's a Fever? What are fevers? Why do kids get them? Get the facts on temperatures and fevers in this article for kids. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. 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