Atypical Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a lung infection. It can occur in people of all ages. Atypical pneumonia is a mild form of the infection. Many with this type of pneumonia can continue normal activities while sick. It is also commonly known as walking pneumonia. All types of pneumonia are potentially serious conditions. It will require care from your doctor.

  • Causes

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

  • Definition

    Pneumonia is a lung infection. It can occur in people of all ages.

    Atypical pneumonia is a mild form of the infection. Many with this type of pneumonia can continue normal activities while sick. It is also commonly known as walking pneumonia.

    All types of pneumonia are potentially serious conditions. It will require care from your doctor.

    The Lungs (Cut-away View)
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. To look for an infection or specific causes of the infection your doctor may ask for:

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


    Your doctor may also need to take pictures of your lungs. This is done with a
    chest x-ray.

    Pneumonia can cause problems with breathing. This may make it difficult for you to get enough oxygen. To measure the level of oxygen in your blood your doctor may do the following tests:

    • Pulse oximetry
    • Arterial blood gas

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chances of getting pneumonia, take the following steps:

    • Use good hand-washing techniques.
    • Avoid contact with other ill people.
    • Get treatment for your chronic conditions.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors increase your chance of developing atypical pneumonia include:

    • Contact with someone who has an infection (for mycoplasma and chlamydia)
    • Exposure to water or soil that contains the bacteria (for legionella)
    • Living in closed communities, such as dormitories in boarding schools or colleges, nursing homes, and military barracks
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Lung disease
    • Weakened immune system

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of atypical pneumonia may include any of the following:


    • General signs of infection such as:

      • Fever (mild)
      • Enlarged lymph nodes
      • Chills
      • Muscle aches and pains

    • Signs of respiratory infection such as:

      • Cough that may produce phlegm
      • Chest pain
      • Shortness of breath
      • Fast breathing
    • Sore throat
    • Abdominal pain
    • Decreased appetite
    • Headache
    • Confusion
    • Fatigue
    • Weakness
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Skin rash

    These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Do not assume they are due to pneumonia. Contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following: