Compared to typical pneumonia, "walking pneumonia" causes milder symptoms that usually don't require bedrest, so individuals may confuse the condition with a common cold, Healthline explains. Typical pneumonia is most often caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae or a virus, while walking pneumonia is usually caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Legionella pneumophila or Chlamydophila pneumonia bacteria.
Doctors use the phrase "walking pneumonia" informally to describe cases of pneumonia that are mild enough to allow a person to continue normal activities, MedicineNet states. However, the term is imprecise, as many physicians only use it in reference to Mycoplasma pneumonia, while others use it to describe all variants of atypical pneumonia. In many cases, doctors may use this term when speaking generally about symptoms that resemble pneumonia even when no diagnosis is made.
Walking pneumonia and typical pneumonia cause similar symptoms, such as fever, cough, rapid breathing, muscle aches and shortness of breath, according to Healthline. However, people with typical infectious pneumonia may struggle with symptoms that are mildly incapacitating, such as chest pain, vomiting, confusion, rapid heartbeat and wheezing. In both cases, physicians can usually diagnose the problem by performing a chest X-ray or scan, which provides a discernible image of the lungs and helps to rule out bronchitis. Doctors may also examine a mucus sample.