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Published by Bupa's health information team, June 2009.
Answers to questions about pneumonia
This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
What is "walking" pneumonia?
"Walking" pneumonia is usually caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae). It's a term used for a very mild form of pneumonia that doesn't require hospitalisation.
Most pneumonia infections are caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae - this is called pneumococcal pneumonia. The condition can also be caused by M. pneumoniae. Pneumonia caused by M. pneumoniae is sometimes called "walking" pneumonia as it tends to be a milder form of the disease and often gets better on its own without treatment.
"Walking" pneumonia is most common in school-age children, adolescents and young adults, but people over 65 can also have this type of pneumonia. In older people the infection can be more serious.
If you have "walking" pneumonia you may have:
a wheezy cough
Pneumonia caused by M. pneumoniae can sometimes be mistaken for asthma (because of the wheezy cough), and might also make asthma symptoms worse.
Although it may not need treating, if you have walking pneumonia it gets better quicker if treated with antibiotics. If you do have antibiotic treatment, your doctor may prescribe one of these medicines:
Always ask your doctor for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.
If your child has aches and a fever you can give him or her children's paracetamol (eg Calpol). Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine and if you have any questions ask your pharmacist for advice.
- Waites KB. Mycoplasma infections. eMedicine. www.emedicine.com, accessed 1 April 2008
- Guidelines for the management of community acquired pneumonia in childhood. British Thoracic Society Standards of Care Committee. www.brit-thoracic.org.uk, accessed 1 April 2008
- Nisar N, Guleria R, Kumar S, et al. Mycoplasma pneumoniae and its role in asthma. Postgrad Med J 2007; 83:100-104. http://pmj.bmj.com/
My mother lives in a nursing home. If she gets pneumonia, will she have to be moved to a hospital?
Your mother's pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics within her nursing home, as long as there are qualified nursing staff to treat her and monitor her recovery.
Older people often don't recover as well if they are moved to a hospital for treatment. Pneumonia is associated with increased confusion in older people and this can cause distress and disorientation. Also older people are more likely to fall if they are in unfamiliar surroundings.
It's therefore likely that your mother will be treated for her pneumonia at her nursing home by qualified nursing staff. The same antibiotics can be used for pneumonia caught in nursing homes as for that caught in the community.
If your mother's pneumonia gets worse and she needs specialist equipment or monitoring, she will need to go to hospital.
- BTS Guidelines for the management of community acquired pneumonia in adults - 2004 update. British Thoracic Society Pneumonia Guidelines Committee. www.brit-thoracic.org.uk, accessed 1 April 2008
- Loeb M, Carusone SC, Georee R, et al. Effect of a clinical pathway to reduce hospitalizations in nursing home residents with pneumonia. JAMA 2006; 295:2503-2510. http://pubs.ama-assn.org
I have diabetes and my doctor has recommended that I have a pneumonia vaccination - why is this?
If you have diabetes, you are more likely to get complications from pneumonia so your GP may recommend that you have a vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Pneumonia itself is a serious infection, but if you have diabetes, the way your body responds to infection can cause severe complications. If you have an infection, your body's glucose levels will increase. This can lead to uncontrolled diabetes and possibly to serious complications.
The pneumococcal vaccination helps prevent you getting pneumococcal pneumonia, or makes it less severe if you do get it. If you have diabetes you should ask your GP about this vaccination. This is particularly important if you are over 60.
- Care recommendations. Influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccinations. Diabetes UK. www.diabetes.org.uk, accessed 4 April 2008
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
Publication date: June 2009