Your child may have walking pneumonia and you wouldn't know it
If your child has been experiencing flu-like symptoms for longer than usual, then he may have "walking pneumonia," which is a highly-contagious disease.
Walking pneumonia is an informal term used for a particular type of pneumonia, an infection of the lung tissue, that is less severe but contagious.
The symptoms are mild that an infected child feels well enough to go to school, hence the term “walking.” In most cases those with walking pneumonia are unaware they have it.
Symptoms manifest 15 to 25 days after exposure to the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Then, over the span of two to four days, the following symptoms develop slowly:
- Mild flu-like symptoms such as low-grade fever (38.5 C below), chills, headache, sore throat
- Cough that may come in violent bouts but with not much phlegm
- Chest or stomach pain
- Rapid breathing, wheezing while breathing and/or labored breathing
- Feeling of weakness, even when other symptoms disappear
- Loss of appetite (both infants and children)
Those infected can also suffer from: skin rash, anemia or an ear infection.
Walking pneumonia is usually caused by the microorganism called Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
It is highly contagious since it is spread through respiratory fluids (or droplets) from an infected person’s sneeze or cough.
The contagious period is believed to be within less than a ten-day period. Some studies believe that prolonged and close contact leads to contracting the disease.
Though there is a certain immunity to the disease, it is uncertain how long it lasts. Hence, walking pneumonia can recur but most likely it will have milder symptoms.
- It is most common in older children and adults under 40
- Those who live or work in crowded areas
- Exposure to someone with tuberculosis
- Having respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which may develop into walking pneumonia
Because those infected with the disease are usually unaware of the infection, they do not seek medical help. However, if you suspect that your child has walking pneumonia, the doctor will ask about the symptoms and when they appeared and whether there are other similar cases in your child’s school.
The doctor will run a physical examination by listening to the chest and watching out for the telltale sign of walking pneumonia which is a crackling sound.
The doctor may ask for a chest X-ray or a blood test, which can identify Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
The infection usually clears up on its own. But seven- to 10-day oral antibiotics treatment may be prescribed. Take note that a child under medication must stay home until the antibiotics take effect, even if he feels well enough to attend school.
- Offer a child plenty of fluids, including soups such as nilaga or molo, to purge the body of toxins
- Use a warm compress on the chest area if a child experiences chest pains
- Ensure that the child sticks to the prescribed medication to ensure that the bacteria is completely eradicated.
There is no vaccine to protect against walking pneumonia. One way to prevent is to boost a child’s immune system by:
- Eating health food
- Getting adequate exercise and sleep
- Washing hands frequently and properly by using the 20 second rule to prevent the spread of germs
- Avoiding secondhand smoke
- Covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing
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