Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:31PM - 1083 Views
Ralph B. Davis

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Rachel Dove-Baldwin

Staff Writer

WILLIAMSON — “Walking pneumonia” medically known as Atypical Pneumonia, sounds like it could be a character in a sci-fi horror flick. Although this form of infectious pneumonia can make you miserable it’s actually the least scary kind of pneumonia, although many who have received this diagnosis will disagree.

According to information received from area physicians and hospital emergency room personnel, cases of walking pneumonia are steadily on the rise and patients as young as 10 years old up to 87 years old have been diagnosed and treated locally, with a few being ill to the point that they required a hospital stay. This type of pneumonia is generally mild and typically doesn’t require hospitalization. In fact, you could have walking pneumonia and not even know it. However; when patients who have underlying health conditions are affected, the treatment plan is a more aggressive one that may include intravenous antibiotics. Following, you will read information about what causes this illness, how it spreads, and what you can do to avoid it.

Walking pneumonia is a non-medical term to describe a mild case of pneumonia. It can also be called atypical pneumonia because the disease is different from more serious cases of pneumonia caused by typical bacteria.

Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs that often results from a lung infection. Lots of things can cause pneumonia, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, chemicals or inhaled food, and it is sometimes the result of a lung infection from a bacterial microorganism called “Mycoplasma Pneumoniae”.

Individuals at any age can get walking pneumonia. The disease that stems from mycoplasma is most common though, in older children and adults younger than 50. People who live and work in crowded places such as schools, hospitals, factories, homeless shelters, and prisons have a higher risk of contracting the disease because walking pneumonia is contagious. It’s spread when someone comes in contact with droplets from the nose and throat of someone who has it. That commonly happens when the person with walking pneumonia sneezes or coughs.

Cases of walking pneumonia are most common in the late summer and fall, although the mild winter the Tug Valley area has experienced is the perfect breeding ground for germs. It’s important to remember that infections can occur with no particular pattern throughout the year and even though the disease is contagious, it spreads slowly. The contagious period in most cases lasts less than 10 days. Researchers also think it takes prolonged close contact with an infected person for someone else to develop walking pneumonia; still, there are widespread outbreaks every four to eight years. When those outbreaks occur, walking pneumonia can account for as many as one out of every two cases of pneumonia. Symptoms generally appear 15 to 25 days after exposure to the mycoplasma and develop slowly over a period of two to four days. Symptoms include a cough that may come in violent spasms but produces very little mucus and mild flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and lingering weakness that may persist and linger after other symptoms go away.

Some cases of walking pneumonia are never diagnosed because people don’t seek medical help. If you do go to the doctor, the diagnosis will depend on your medical history and the results of a physical exam. The doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms and how long you have had them. The doctor may also ask you about where you work and whether anyone at home or at your workplace is also sick.

During the physical, the doctor will listen to your chest with a stethoscope. The doctor may also ask for a chest x-ray and blood test. There is a blood test that can specifically identify a mycoplasma infection although it’s seldom performed unless there is a widespread outbreak that’s being studied. Another test may be ordered that identifies the increased presence of certain immune substances called cold agglutinins. This test won’t confirm that you have walking pneumonia, but it can suggest it. The best way to diagnosis the disease is with a chest x-ray.

Walking pneumonia is generally treated with antibiotics. Mild infections are often not treated because they tend to clear on their own. With treatment, most people begin to feel better within a few days. Many over-the-counter medicines used for colds and flus may not help with complete relief of symptoms of walking pneumonia. It’s important to talk with your doctor about any medicines you are taking or planning to take. It’s also important to drink fluids and to get plenty of rest.

There is a certain level of immunity that occurs after someone has a case of walking pneumonia. It isn’t permanent and it’s unclear how long it lasts so you could at some point develop walking pneumonia again. When it does reoccur, it may be milder the second time around. There is no vaccine for mycoplasma infections and there’s no way to prevent it. There are things you can do, though, to reduce your chances of getting it.

Exercise, eat a well-balanced diet, and get adequate sleep. Proper nutrition will help keep your body healthy and healthy body is better able to resist infection. Wash your hands frequently. Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent germs from spreading. Refrain from smoking since this addictive habit is known to damages the lungs, making them more susceptible to infection. Cover your mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze and urge others to do the same. Coughing and sneezing are the primary ways infectious agents are spread.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you are urged to seek medical attention before your condition worsens or develops into something more serious. Always remember that prevention is far better than a cure but when symptoms occur and an infectious is present, treatment is the only option to overcome most illnesses.

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