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What Causes Walking Pneumonia in Adults?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many things that have the ability to cause walking pneumonia, which is a milder form of pneumonia, in adults. Among the most common are bacteria and viruses, though fungi and other infection-causing agents may cause this condition as well. Interestingly, a person can also develop this disease because of the inhalation of food or chemicals. It is important to note that a diagnosis of walking pneumonia in adults doesn't necessarily mean there is no risk of complications or need for treatment. It is possible for walking pneumonia in adults to get worse, and doctors typically recommend treating it with antibiotics.

In most cases, bacteria and viruses cause walking pneumonia in adults, though other types of infections may cause it as well. For example, a person can also develop this condition as a result of fungi. Sometimes the inhalation of a fungus, such as Histoplasma capsulatum, can result in this condition, though it is possible for a person to inhale this fungus and have no reaction.

An individual also can catch walking pneumonia from another person. This illness is spread in much the same way as a cold or other type of contagious respiratory infection. When an individual who has walking pneumonia sneezes or coughs into the air, the droplets he emits have the potential to infect another person. He can also spread the infection via used tissues or by touching and contaminating surfaces with the virus or bacteria that caused his case of the infection. Additionally, a person could contract it by kissing a person who is already infected with walking pneumonia.

Anyone can develop a case of walking pneumonia, but some people may be more at risk for it than others. For example, a person who works or lives in a crowded environment may be more likely to catch it. This includes people who work in schools and hospitals as well as those who live or work in prisons or shelters for the homeless. In places like these that have crowded conditions, it is much harder to avoid contagious diseases.

It is important to keep in mind that a person can develop walking pneumonia without catching it from another person. For example, an individual may develop it when he inhales a foreign body that gets trapped in his lungs. This can occur when a person accidentally inhales food or vomit. Walking pneumonia in adults may also result when a person inhales a chemical that causes irritation of his airways.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Jan 11, 2013

@Oceana – Yes, that's why it is called that. Also, technically, anyone who has it is walking the pneumonia around.

I have a friend who recently had it, but she didn't even know it. She figured she had the flu, but she just couldn't shake it, so after two weeks, she went to the doctor, who told her what she had.

I think that walking pneumonia in children is probably diagnosed more often, just because parents tend to take kids to the doctor when they are sick more often than they tend to go themselves. Adults have a bad habit of trying to beat sicknesses on their own, and they wind up getting sicker. They wouldn't put a child through this.

By Oceana — On Jan 10, 2013

Is it called “walking pneumonia” because you are still able to walk around while you have it? I know that some people with pneumonia are too sick to get out of a hospital bed.

By Perdido — On Jan 10, 2013

@orangey03 – The symptoms of pneumonia are fever, chills, and a severe cough. The cough and the phlegm are different depending on whether you have a bacterial or a viral infection, though.

My parents have had both types of pneumonia. With the viral kind, they had more of a dry cough with white phlegm. The bacterial kind is more scary, because your lungs start to fill with fluid.

You would have a bacterial infection in your lungs because of the food you inhaled. You would probably see red, green, or brown phlegm with this, and you would get a fever so high you might become delirious.

You would be so sick that you couldn't ignore it. You would want to go to the doctor right away.

By orangey03 — On Jan 09, 2013

I'm scared that I may get walking pneumonia. I accidentally inhaled some food yesterday because I laughed while eating, and now, I'm terrified that my lungs may become infected.

What are the signs of walking pneumonia? I want to know what to watch out for, because I will go to a doctor for treatment if I think I have it.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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