Identifying Walking Pneumonia in Mom and Dad and Responding the Right Way

Walking pneumonia is not an actual diagnosis, but it is a serious condition that requires attention. It is a layman’s term for a pneumonia that can be treated at home. The illness is still uncomfortable, but people tend to go about their day as if they had the common cold. Since pneumonia is caused by a number of different factors, it can be difficult to treat this type. However, when an elderly person is found to have walking pneumonia, care at home is essential to avoid the illness moving to the type that needs hospitalization.


The symptoms that lead doctors to assume this type of pneumonia typically get worse slowly. A dry, hacking cough which produces no phlegm is the first sign. A headache will soon follow, as will wheezing, a sore throat, and a low-grade fever. The symptoms are mild, but often take nearly a month to finish. While these symptoms will usually work their way through a younger person, they have the potential to lead to more severe issues in the elderly.

What Can Be Done?

If an elderly person is suspicious of this type of pneumonia, the first step is to visit the doctor. The doctor will want to monitor the situation to make sure it doesn’t move into a greater concern. Even if the only symptom is the dry cough which has lasted for a few days, it’s wise to find out what’s happening in the lungs. The doctor may order a chest x-ray for a proper diagnosis, then adopt a “wait and see” attitude.

If an elderly person does have walking pneumonia, it’s time to help the person rest as much as possible. The prescription of an antibiotic will depend on the doctor, but most will prescribe something to help keep other forms of infection out of the body. If there are other medical issues, the doctor may admit the elderly person to a hospital, but every case is unique. When the person is sent home, the doctor will insist on increased fluids, humidifiers in the bedroom, and plenty of rest. It is important to remember that this condition has a higher chance of becoming worse within the elderly, and should not be treated lightly. While younger people can continue with daily activities, it’s better for the elderly to set aside some routine habits in favor of rest until they are cleared by a doctor. 

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