Pneumonia is an inflammation of the airways caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Walking pneumonia is a nonmedical term for a milder case of pneumonia. The medical term for this condition is atypical pneumonia.

When you have pneumonia, you’ll likely need to spend at least a few days on bed rest. Some severe cases even require hospitalization. However, people with walking pneumonia sometimes don’t even know they have it because the symptoms are so mild. Others may simply feel like they have a cold or other mild viral illness.

The symptoms of walking pneumonia are similar to those of pneumonia. The biggest difference is that the symptoms of walking pneumonia are much milder.

Symptoms of walking pneumonia include:

  • mild fever (less than 101°F)
  • sore throat
  • dry cough lasting more than a week
  • headache
  • chills
  • labored breathing
  • chest pain
  • loss of appetite

Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • high fever (101°F to 105°F)
  • fatigue
  • chills
  • cough that produces phlegm (mucus)
  • chest pain, especially with deep breathing or coughing
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • loss of appetite
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:Walking pneumonia’s symptoms are much milder than pneumonia’s. While pneumonia causes a high fever and cough that produces mucus, walking pneumonia involves a very low fever and a dry cough.

Walking pneumonia and pneumonia are both the result of an infection of the respiratory tract. However, they’re caused by different types of germs.

Walking pneumonia

Walking pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Other bacteria that can cause walking pneumonia include:

  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae
  • Legionella pneumoniae, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, a more severe type of walking pneumonia

Pneumonia

While walking pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection, pneumonia can involve viruses, bacteria, or fungi. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, with Haemophilus influenza being the second most common cause.

Roughly half of all people with pneumonia have viral pneumonia. In rare cases, fungi from soil or bird droppings can cause pneumonia in people who inhale it. This is called fungal pneumonia.

THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:Walking pneumonia is always caused by a bacterial infection. Pneumonia can result from a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.

There are certain factors that increase your risk of developing either walking pneumonia or pneumonia. These include:

  • being under 2 years old
  • being older than 65 years old
  • having a suppressed immune system
  • having another respiratory condition, such as asthma
  • using inhaled corticosteroids for long periods of time
  • smoking
  • living or working in very crowded spaces or those that have a lot of germs, such as a school, dormitory, hospital, or nursing home
  • living in areas of major air pollution
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:Pneumonia and walking pneumonia share the same risk factors.

Most people with walking pneumonia don’t go to the doctor because their symptoms are very mild. However, doctors use the same approach to diagnose both types of pneumonia.

To start, they’ll likely listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for signs of a problem with your airways. They may also ask about your lifestyle, including the kind of environment you work in and whether you smoke.

In some cases, your doctor might use an X-ray look at your chest. This can help them differentiate between pneumonia and other conditions, such as bronchitis. Depending on your symptoms, they may also take a blood sample, swab your throat, or take a mucus culture to determine which type of bacteria is causing your symptoms.

THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:The symptoms of walking pneumonia are often mild enough that people don’t go to the doctor. If you do, however, your doctor will follow the same process for diagnosing either walking pneumonia or pneumonia.

Many cases of walking pneumonia don’t require treatment. To help your body heal, it’s best to rest as much as possible and stay hydrated. If you have a fever, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also ask your doctor about taking an antibiotic.

Pneumonia and more serious cases of walking pneumonia may need additional treatment, such as:

  • oxygen to assist with breathing
  • intravenous (IV) fluids
  • breathing treatments to help loosen the mucus in your airways
  • corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • oral or IV antibiotics
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:Walking pneumonia often doesn’t require treatment, though some cases may need antibiotics. Pneumonia may require additional treatment to improve breathing and reduce inflammation in your airways.

While walking pneumonia is usually milder than pneumonia, it involves a longer recovery period. It can take about six weeks to fully recover from walking pneumonia. However, most people recover from pneumonia in about a week. Bacterial pneumonia usually starts to improve shortly after starting antibiotics, while viral pneumonia usually starts to improve after about three days.

If you have a weakened immune system or a severe case of pneumonia, the recovery period might be longer.

THE MAIN DIFFERENCE:While walking pneumonia is milder than pneumonia, it requires a longer recovery period. It can last for up to six weeks, while pneumonia symptoms usually start to improve within a couple of days.

Walking pneumonia is a milder form of pneumonia that’s caused by different types of bacteria.

Unlike other types of pneumonia, people with walking pneumonia usually don’t have severe shortness of breath, high fever, and a productive cough. Both types of pneumonia are usually very contagious, so make sure to wash your hands often and cover you face when you cough if you have walking pneumonia or pneumonia.