From aggressive strands of influenza to the novel coronavirus, this cold and flu season has been a particularly tumultuous one. The good news is, if you’re wrestling with cold-related symptoms it’s likely just that — the common cold.
Sometimes, though, other conditions can disguise themselves as the common cold. You’re coughing, fatigued, your nose is stuffed up and temples pulsing — textbook cold, right? Not always: What presents as a common cold could sometimes turn out to be a case of walking pneumonia.
What is walking pneumonia?
Walking pneumonia (aka atypical pneumonia) is a mild case of pneumonia caused by bacteria or viruses. The infection affects your upper and lower respiratory tract and causes symptoms including sore throat, inflammation in the windpipe, persistent dry cough and headache.
About two million people in the United States get walking pneumonia each year. The infection is not usually as severe as other types of pneumonia. However, according to HealthLine, walking pneumonia is considered atypical because its cells are resistant to penicillin (the usual drug used to treat pneumonia).
How does walking pneumonia affect older adults?
Though walking pneumonia is more prevalent in young children and college students, it affects older adults as well.
The difference is, unlike younger individuals, older folks are less likely to notice symptoms and visit the doctor. This is because many older adults’ immune response is already in a somewhat weakened state, causing further complications or infections to occur.
Still, if you’re experiencing a lingering cold that might actually be atypical pneumonia, it’s important to get it checked out. “If it’s more than a week or two, and it’s not improving, you need to get checked out,” Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Dan Allan told News4Jax. Your doctor will then likely prescribe you antibiotics or over-the-counter treatment.
When will walking pneumonia clear up?
According to the American Lung Association, most people will start to feel better within three to five days after beginning treatment. But, the organization says, a cough from pneumonia can last weeks or months after treatment.
“Recovery time will vary from person to person and will depend on whether you have other medical problems, such as asthma or COPD,” Dr. Albert Rizzo, senior medical advisor to the American Lung Association said. “Too slow of a pace of recovery and certainly any worsening of symptoms is information you should share with your doctor.”
As there is no vaccine for walking pneumonia, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently in order to stave off the contagion.