Walking pneumonia is so termed because the child often feels well enough to continue with their daily activities and are as active as they normally are. This milder version of pneumonia has symptoms that are niggling and may continue for longer than a month. Sometimes the fever, often associated with this atypical type of pneumonia, disappears even though the infection is still present. This type of mild or atypical pneumonia is caused by the Mycoplasma bacteria.
How to Tell If My Children Have Walking Pneumonia
The typical symptoms of walking pneumonia in children are:
- Not a very high fever: below about 38.5 degrees Celsius
- Other typical symptoms of a cold or flu, like chills, headache and sore throat
- Unusual breathing like breathing fast, wheezing or grunting sounds while breathing accompanied by laboured breathing
- Persistent cough that sounds hacking
- Pain either in the chest area or the tummy
- General feeling of body weakness
- Vomiting and/diarrhoea
- Poor appetite or loss of appetite
- Skin rash
Symptoms appear between 15-25 days after exposure to the pathogen. Your doctor can generally diagnose walking pneumonia in children by the symptoms that they present with. This is the leading manner in which a positive diagnosis is made.
Your doctor may also order an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests that may be ordered: cold agglutinin test, complement-fixing antibody test and Mycoplasma pneumonia antibody test. The pathogen that causes the condition is also responsible for other types of infections like ear infections, bronchitis, croup and sinus infections.
Medical Treatments for Walking Pneumonia in Children
Antibiotics are prescribed as the main avenue of treatment. Once the antibiotic regime has started, the child will start feeling better soon after.
Possible antibiotics are:
- Azithromycin (Zithromax®)
- Tetracycline (only prescribed for children over the age of 8)
If the infection is deemed mild, then the infection is left to clear on its own.
Recovery from Walking Pneumonia in Children
- Ask your child to drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated and allow the body to flush out the toxins. Manage the mild symptoms with over-the-counter medicines, e.g. analgesics for fever and pain.
- You must allow your child to rest his body so that it can eliminate the infection, so keep the child out of school for a few days.
- Ensure you confirm with the doctor or pharmacist which cough syrup is best to treat the cough. Remember a cough suppressant will stop the coughing but if there is phlegm/mucus in the lungs that will remain trapped in the lungs. Perhaps an expectorant will be more beneficial in loosening the phlegm so that it can be eliminated.
- To ease the chest pain, place a warm compress on the chest area.
- Continually monitor your child's fever. Alert your doctor if the temperature increases over 38.9 degrees Celsius in an older child or above 38 degrees Celsius in a baby under the age of 6 months.
There are some dietary changes you can make to speed up the recovery process:
- Minimize the intake of animal protein. Animal protein is difficult to digest and places a strain on the body's organs. Instead, allow the protein consumed be from plant sources, such as eggplant, artichokes, spinach, etc.
- Increase the antioxidant intake, such as apple and cranberry juice.
- Including foods such as carrots and cayenne pepper in the diet will assist the body to heal the lungs and they are also full of antioxidants.
- Include foods that are rich in potassium to speed up the the repair of inflamed tissue. Foods such as avocado, bananas and leafy green are chock-full of potassium.
Prevention of Walking Pneumonia in Children
The condition is very prevalent in school-age children because of the close proximity of the children. This airborne infection is easily spread through sneezing, rubbing the eye with hands that have the bacteria present on them, using the same utensils as one who is infected, etc. This is the reason why once a child is infected, almost everyone in close proximity to that child is vulnerable to being infected.
There is no vaccine available and once you have the infection, there is no guarantee you will not contract it again at a later time. However, ensure your child is up to date with all of their recommended immunizations to prevent other infections whilst the body's immune system is compromised.
There are steps you can advise your child to adopt to minimize the chances of contracting walking pneumonia in children.
- When sneezing, do so in a tissue which should be discarded as soon as it is used. If there is no tissue available, sneeze into the elbow rather than into the hands. If you sneeze onto your hands, any bacteria from your nose or mouth will be transferred to anything you touch.
- Wash the hands regularly during the day with soap and warm water. Hands should be lathered for about 20 seconds to be completely effective. If there is no water and soap available, make use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Avoid sharing any eating utensils, towels or drinking glasses.