Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by a virus or bacteria. The viral type is milder and often goes undetected. The bacterial type, which can be a flu complication, is more serious but less common. Symptoms vary widely. A high fever is almost always present and persists for many days. When pneumonia follows the flu, the fever may drop initially or even disappear and then reappear. Respiratory difficulties beyond simple nasal congestion are also typical, as are low energy and paleness. If your child presents these symptoms, take him to the doctor, who may order a chest X ray to confirm the diagnosis. Contrary to popular belief, pneumonia does not always provoke coughing; in many cases, the child is too weak to cough. And a nasty cough without any other symptoms is rarely a sign of pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, sometimes in the hospital. Improvement usually occurs within a few days of beginning treatment. The viral variety resolves on its own in about the same time frame.
This term refers to a specific type of bacterial pneumonia (called mycoplasma pneumoniae) that behaves more like a viral pneumonia. It usually affects children over five and peaks in adolescence. The relatively mild symptoms look just like those of a flu, consisting of a sore throat, cough, and fever. If the illness persists and the flu diagnosis is called into question, an X-ray may show a pneumonia that is far more impressive than the actual discomfort it’s causing.
Unlike other types of pneumonia, walking pneumonia does not affect breathing or vastly restrict activity, thus the name. Doctors treat the condition with antibiotics, and the disease is moderately contagious. Walking pneumonia is frequently overdiagnosed; people who have an especially bad cough that lingers or a flu that can’t be shaken are often treated unnecessarily for a touch of “walking pneumonia,” when in fact they are likely suffering from a viral illness.