Pneumonia vs. Walking Pneumonia

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We are going to gain an understanding of the basics of pneumonia such as the causes, symptoms, and treatment. Then a description of walking pneumonia will be given for comparison.

The Lungs

There are so many different parts to your body and you depend on each of them to do what they are designed to do. You count on your legs to walk, eyes to see, hands to grab things and skin to protect you and let you know about your environment. You become aware pretty quickly when a part of your body is in pain or isn't functioning as well as it should.

This is definitely the case when it comes to your lungs. We need to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide continuously. That is the main job of the lungs. If the lungs aren't working well, this can be serious trouble because every single part of the body needs oxygen in order to carry-out their functions. There are many diseases and conditions that may affect the lungs and cause them to not function at the normal level.


One disease that can wreak havoc is an infection in the lungs that makes the alveoli, or air sacs of the lungs, become inflamed, known as pneumonia. Pneumonia may be caused by one of several different microorganisms including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The infection may make it difficult to breathe since fluid may begin to build-up and accumulate in the lungs.

Pneumonia causes the alveoli to become inflamed
Diagram of pneumonia

Symptoms that you may have with pneumonia will differ depending on the cause and your age. When it occurs in babies, they may have a fever, vomit, or have difficulty eating, breathing, and sleeping, or they may not have any symptoms at all.

Elderly adults tend to have confusion as well as other problems thinking and mental disturbances. If you have pneumonia when you are between the ages of about 5 and 64, then your symptoms may be difficulty breathing, coughing, fever, chest pain, vomiting and diarrhea, chills, and sweating. Pus may also be a symptom if the pneumonia is caused by bacteria.

The good news is that if you are otherwise healthy, then pneumonia can be treated fairly easily. *Viral pneumonia pretty much just has to run its course.

  • Fungal pneumonia is the rarest form out of the three causes and can be treated with antifungal medications.
  • Bacterial pneumonia is more concerning and harder to treat, as though antibiotics are used, some bacteria are antibiotic resistant, meaning they cannot be killed with antibiotics.

Most cases of pneumonia require hospitalization or bedrest at a minimum.

Walking Pneumonia

You have probably heard that song that mentions walking pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu. Are those really diseases? Well, I don't know about the boogie woogie flu, but walking pneumonia is a disease. It is basically a very mild form of pneumonia, so mild that you are still up and walking around when you have it. Hence the reason for the name. The most common cause is a weak bacteria.

The symptoms of walking pneumonia, also called 'atypical pneumonia', are much like what is seen with a cold, such as coughing and running nose. Most people with walking pneumonia think they just have a bad cold that lasts longer than usual. It is such a mild form of pneumonia that it is easily treated with antibiotics and physicians don't recommend bed rest or admittance to the hospital.

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