The strange-sounding term walking pneumonia is an informal designation used when the disease is not serious enough to require either hospitalization or bed rest.(1) It is more often than not brought home by young children from school, and presents something of a conundrum: the symptoms are not usually serious enough to merit a doctor’s visit, and if-when a doctor’s visit does occur, the condition may not be diagnosed as being serious enough to warrant a chest X-ray.
In late May, 2011, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Roy Nelson stepped into the ring, despite having a case of walking pneumonia.(2) He struggled with it for several weeks prior to stepping into the ring at the UFC 130 event, and admits it greatly affected his ability to properly train for his fight.
At the same time, this incident is a vivid reminder of just how non-threatening a disease walking pneumonia is. Here you have someone who was able to still step into a high-impact sports event, despite suffering beforehand from the ailment and needing, by his own admission, several weeks afterward to properly recover. In Nelson’s case, the main symptom was lethargy.
The majority of walking pneumonia cases are transmitted in the summer and fall.(3) Once a person has contracted it, they are generally contagious for a maximum of ten days. Along with fatigue, other walking pneumonia symptoms include dry coughing, headaches, fever, and chills.
Some cases are never properly identified because those suffering from the ailment do not pay a visit to the doctor’s office. Ironically, there is a blood test that tests specifically for walking pneumonia, but it is rarely carried out except in the cases of widespread outbreaks of the disease. Barring a blood test or chest X-ray, the old stand-by of a doctor’s stethoscope can usually pick up the irregular breathing patterns and help pinpoint a walk to the neighborhood pharmacist to pick up prescribed medicine.