Walking pneumonia is the most common name for a form of mycoplasma infection. Mycoplasma is a kind of bacteria that can cause not only pneumonia but also upper respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis. Mycoplasma may also contribute to getting a sore throat. This type of infection is contagious and can be spread through interpersonal contact as well as through the air when people cough or sneeze. Symptoms of a mycoplasma infection may sometimes be mistaken for a common cold. A person may realize he has more than a cold when symptoms last longer than a few days.
Mycoplasma does not discriminate—people of all ages and both genders can be equally affected by the illness. School-age children and adolescents may be more likely to become infected simply due to being exposed to a large germ pool on a daily basis. Preschoolers, when they do become infected with mycoplasma, tend to display very mild symptoms and may even be asymptomatic. The bacteria is more rampant in the general population at the end of summer and into the fall, according to the Maryland Community Health Administration.
The incubation period for a mycoplasma infection varies greatly, depending on the method of transmission, the strength of the bacteria at the time of transmission and the overall health of the individual affected. A person who has come in contact with mycoplasma may begin to show outward symptoms of illness in as little time as a week. Symptoms may be slower to come, with the median time being around 21 days. People who are infected are generally considered contagious for 10 to 15 days. The period of contagion can be especially problematic in schools and other densely populated areas, when some people do not show symptoms of walking pneumonia at all.
Symptoms of a mycoplasma infection include feeling more tired than usual, having a headache and developing a fever in addition to respiratory symptoms. Persistent coughing is one of the most common symptom of walking, or atypical pneumonia and bronchitis caused by mycoplasma. Some people also feel minor chest pain and a sore throat as a result of a mycoplasma infection. Most people find that the onset of symptoms is a gradual process, starting with one symptom with the others following within a few days.
Chest x-rays and blood tests can diagnose mycoplasma pneumonia after a doctor takes a medical history of the patient's symptoms. People showing only minor symptoms that are consistent with a mycoplasma infection may not need to undergo diagnostic testing, and they may be treated based on a physical examination alone. Being able to tell a physician the timeline of when specific symptoms began may be helpful in determining whether mycoplasma infection is a possibility.
Treatment of Symptoms
Mycoplasma infections that are not serious may heal themselves without any specific treatment. Illness with more pronounced symptoms that do not subside own their own may require a course of antibiotics. Once antibiotics are prescribed, the infected individual will begin to feel healthier and will no longer be contagious. However, mycoplasma is a hardy bacteria. Even with medical treatment, mycoplasma may remain in the body, especially the throat, for up to three months.