What is Walking Pneumonia?

Nick Rosen, MD
Medically reviewed by Nick Rosen, MDMay 22nd, 2021
Senior coughing

If you haven’t been feeling so hot lately, you’ve likely Googled your symptoms in a COVID-worried frenzy and come across the term “walking pneumonia” or “atypical pneumonia.” As alarming as it might sound, walking pneumonia is actually less severe than normal pneumonia. While pneumonia often puts people in the hospital, some people come down with walking pneumonia without even realizing they have it!

If you’re experiencing symptoms, however, you probably want to learn all you can about this illness, including how it’s caused and treated. Read on for the answers you’re looking for.

What Causes Walking Pneumonia?

Walking pneumonia is frequently caused by the bacteria

Mycoplasma pneumoniae. This bacteria can spread and cause walking pneumonia in a number of ways, but the most common is a lung infection. You should note that walking pneumonia is contagious, so be sure to limit social interactions while you recover to prevent spreading this illness to others. It’s not a super-contagious disease, however; widespread outbreaks only happen every 4-8 years or so. It does spread easily in places where people live and/or work closely, such as assisted living facilities, schools, dorms, barracks, etc. In addition to the

Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria, it can also be caused by a virus, fungi, chemical exposure, or inhaled food.

Walking Pneumonia Symptoms

If you’re not among the lucky ones who don’t even realize they have walking pneumonia, you’re likely experiencing symptoms similar to a cold. You can expect:

Keep in mind that walking pneumonia symptoms can come on as long as 25 days after exposure. So, if you’re wondering how you got walking pneumonia even though you’ve been home all week, you could have picked it up during last week’s—or even last month’s—trip to the supermarket.

How Long Does Walking Pneumonia Last?

It’s difficult to say how long it takes to recover from walking pneumonia, as it varies from person to person. Some people recover in as little as two to four days while others can feel under the weather for weeks. Your recovery time will also vary according to the treatment that your doctor recommends. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, your recovery time will likely shorten.

Speaking of doctors, it’s essential to make an appointment if you’re experiencing walking pneumonia symptoms. Not only does walking pneumonia share many symptoms with

COVID-19, but it’s also easy to mistake for something viral, such as a respiratory infection, sinus infection, or bronchitis. It’s best to receive a diagnosis from a doctor to ensure you get the right treatment instead of assuming it’s simply a cold or a mild case of walking pneumonia.

Turn to DispatchHealth

Maybe you’re not feeling well enough to head to your doctor’s office, or maybe you’re making a good call to stay home in case your symptoms actually point to

COVID-19. Or maybe your child is sick, too, requiring you to stay home and take care of them. You might be mobility-impaired in another way. No matter your situation, you can rely on DispatchHealth.


We provide convenient, same-day medical care in the comfort of your own home. When you request a visit, we’ll be on your doorstep within a few hours geared up with most of the equipment you’ll find in your local emergency room. We’re also, of course, taking extensive precautions to protect our staff and patients from COVID-19, including wearing PPE and thoroughly sanitizing our gear and vehicles in between every visit.

We accept most major forms of medical insurance, too—including Medicare and Medicaid—and we offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. In fact, most of our patients report spending about the same as they would on an urgent care visit. We can write prescriptions and perform a wide variety of treatments and procedures from your living room, allowing you to receive the treatment you need quickly, comfortably, and affordably.

Need treatment for walking pneumonia? We’re here for you. Request a visit via our website, app, or a phone call today, or feel free to get in touch with any questions.

For life-or-limb-threatening or time-sensitive symptoms, injuries, or illnesses, contact 911 immediately.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/lung/walking-pneumonia
  2. https://www.lung.org/blog/what-is-walking-pneumonia
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/atypical-pneumonia
  4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-cant-shake-that-cold-tips-on-walking-pneumonia/
The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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