There is only a thin line separating the symptoms of common cold and walking pneumonia. Often caused by atypical bacteria like Mycoplasma, it is a milder form of pneumonia that clears up on its own or with the help of prescribed antibiotics along with some herbal home remedies.
The common cold has its telltale symptoms: a stuffy nose, a scratchy throat, spells of coughing, body pain or headaches, and sore muscles. But what if all these symptoms pointed to something more serious, to say, a condition called walking pneumonia?
Walking pneumonia is not as menacing as it sounds, though – a mild form of pneumonia, it does not usually interfere with your daily activities, allowing you to continue “walking” and going about your normal life. In fact, many people with walking pneumonia are oblivious to it and assume they have a cold.
What Causes Walking Pneumonia?
Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a tiny bacterium that can live in your nose, throat, windpipe, and lungs, is the culprit here. It causes an inflammation or infection in the lungs, but this is much milder than in typical pneumonia.
Pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma (along with other pathogens like Chlamydophila and Legionella) come under the bracket of atypical pneumonia – which simply means traditional bacteria species like Streptococcus pneumoniae which trigger typical pneumonia are not the cause here.1 Unlike traditional pneumonia bacteria, these organisms don’t have outer cell walls and are resilient to penicillin and certain antibiotics that target cell walls.2
The symptoms of walking pneumonia are milder than those in normal pneumonia. In most cases, this type of pneumonia sorts itself out on its own with enough rest and fluids.3
Risks And Complications
While the condition is mostly harmless, a few possibilities suggest that walking pneumonia can’t be taken too lightly. Walking pneumonia is airborne, spreading through sneezing or coughing. So, in crowded or contained environments like schools, colleges, camps, and hospitals, it is extremely contagious. Serious complications due to this type of pneumonia are rare but not unheard of. Anemia, encephalitis, kidney problems, and skin infections are some possible complications. It can also graduate to a more serious pneumonia in some cases. Apart from children, pregnant women, the elderly, smokers, and people with lower immunity (due to organ transplants, chemotherapy, chronic health conditions like diabetes or asthma, or AIDS) have to be careful because there are chances of the condition aggravating.4
Walking pneumonia is usually treated with a course of antibiotics. But getting the right diagnosis is important because Mycoplasma is resistant to the antibiotics that are generally used to treat typical pneumonia or even flu.
Unlike the common cold, walking pneumonia can linger on, often for even a month. So a doctor’s visit is called for if you’re feeling under the weather even after 7–10 days of rest and OTC medicines. Your doctor may run blood tests and order a chest x-ray or scan for diagnosis, and prescribe antibiotics. A course of antibiotics – especially when started early – can help sort out the condition quickly.
You can also try the alternative route to alleviate some of the symptoms.
- Herbal Remedies: Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) acts as an expectorant because of its high saponin content and alleviates congestion of the respiratory tract. You can brew a tea and have it 3–4 times a day. An infusion of Seneca snakeroot (Polygala senega) also helps in clearing chest congestion. Steam inhalation with eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus globulus) can inhibit bacterial growth in the respiratory membranes and soothe a cough.5
- Ayurveda: According to Ayurveda, vata imbalance causes pneumonia. Cough caused by vata imbalance (vataja kasa) can be treated with panchakarma therapy.6 Panchakarma is a five-pronged approach that aims to detoxify the body and balances the doshas, thus treating the respiratory disorder. By removing stress and toxins, it is believed to improve immunity and recovery.
- Yoga: Pranayama is a breathing exercise that can improve pulmonary function. A study was conducted on 50 young adults who underwent pranayama training 1 hour a day, 6 days a week. The results showed a statistically significant increase in the lung parameters. The study concluded that pranayama can be used as a lung strengthening tool to treat respiratory conditions and fortify the lungs after an attack of pneumonia or even tuberculosis.7
- Home Remedies: 1 or 2 grams of turmeric mixed with honey or ghee can be consumed daily to clear phlegm and reduce coughs.8 Turpentine oil, when applied to the chest, can reduce congestion and the pain from coughing.9 Garlic is another simple home remedy that is known to bring down body temperature.10
With a well-balanced diet, good hydration, adequate sleep, and simple home remedies, you can boost your immune system and beat the bacteria. Following general hygiene practices like washing hands frequently and covering your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing will limit the infection from spreading. You can also ask your doctor for a flu shot or pneumonia vaccine to keep the bacteria at bay.11
References [ + ]
|1, 11.||↑||Atypical Pneumonia, US National Library of Medicine.|
|2.||↑||Waites, Ken B., and Deborah F. Talkington. “Mycoplasma pneumoniae and its role as a human pathogen.” Clinical microbiology reviews 17, no. 4 (2004): 697-728.|
|3.||↑||Community acquired pneumonia – Typical or atypical? Bedi RS, Indian Chest Society.|
|4.||↑||Mycoplasma pneumoniae Infection,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|5.||↑||Pneumonia, Medicinal Plants of the Southwest (MPSW) Program, National Institute of Health.|
|6.||↑||Dr. Vivek Kumar Mishra and Dr. Neha Mishra. “Role of Panchakarma in Sequential Management of Pranavaha Srotastha Vyadhi in children”. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 5, no. 3 (2016): 527-538.|
|7.||↑||Shankarappa, V., P. Prashanth, N. Annamalai, and V. Malhotra. “The short term effect of pranayama on the lung parameters.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research 6, no. 1 (2012): 27-30.|
|8.||↑||Ravindran, P. N., K. Nirmal Babu, and Kandaswamy Sivaraman, eds. Turmeric: the genus Curcuma. CRC Press, 2007.|
|9.||↑||The London Lancet: A Journal of British and Foreign Medicine, Physiology, Surgery, Chemistry, Criticism, Literature and News, Volume 2. Burgess, Stringer & Company, 1855.|
|10.||↑||Herr, Karl. Hex and Spellwork: The Magical Practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch. York Beach, ME: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2002.|