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Atypical Pneumonia

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Atypical Pneumonia

(Walking Pneumonia)


Pneumonia is a lung infection. Atypical pneumonia is a mild form of the infection. Many people with it can continue normal activities while sick. It is also known as walking pneumonia.

Development of Pneumonia in the Air Sacs of the Lungs.

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Atypical pneumonia may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. They tend to be different than the bacteria that cause typical forms of pneumonia.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of atypical pneumonia are:

  • Contact with someone who has an infection
  • Exposure to water or soil that contains bacteria
  • Living in closed communities, such as dormitories, nursing homes, and military barracks
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Lung disease
  • Having a weakened immune system


Symptoms of atypical pneumonia may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Coughing and a sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Headache
  • Problems breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Belly pain
  • Lack of hunger
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Tests will be done to look for signs of infection, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Blood cultures
  • Sputum test

Pictures may be taken of the lungs. This can be done with a chest x-ray.

Pneumonia can cause problems with breathing. This may make it hard to get enough oxygen. These tests may be done to measure the level of oxygen in the blood:

  • Pulse oximetry
  • Arterial blood gas


Antibiotics will be given to treat the infection. Symptoms can be eased by:

  • Over the counter medicines to lower fever and ease pain
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Resting


To lower the risk of atypical and other types of pneumonia:

  • Practice proper hand washing.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Do not smoke.




  • Community-acquired pneumonia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/community-acquired-pneumonia-in-adults.
  • Learn about pneumonia. American Lung Association website. Available at: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/pneumonia/learn-about-pneumonia.
  • What is pneumonia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/pneumonia.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.