Germ Profile

Also Known As:  Walking Pneumonia, Atypical Pneumonia, M. Pneumoniae
Germ Type:  Bacteria
Season:  Spring, summer, fall, winter

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a common cause of respiratory infections in school-age children and young adults. (Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection is rare in children younger than 5.) Cough, sore throat, fever, and fatigue are common symptoms. Many people will have only mild infection and will recover on their own. However, about 10% of school-age children will develop pneumonia and may need treatment with antibiotics.


Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections are seen year-round throughout the world.


Signs and Symptoms

Cough and sore throat are the most common symptoms of Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection. Often the cough starts out as a “dry” (nonproductive) cough, but may later become “phlegmy” (productive). Infection can also bring fever, weakness, headache, and rash – and it can trigger an asthma flare-up in a person with asthma. Pneumonia is a common complication. In fact, Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection is a leading cause of pneumonia in school-age children and young adults. Occasionally, people infected with Mycoplasma break out in an unusual target-shaped rash called erythema multiforme.

How It's Spread

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is spread by close personal contact. Infection spreads easily within families – and outbreaks are common in schools, summer camps, and dormitories.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Providers usually diagnose a Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection by taking a medical history and doing a physical exam. The provider may also choose to verify the diagnosis by testing a sample of mucus from the mouth or nose, or by ordering a blood test.

Treatment for Mycoplasma pneumoniae depends on the symptoms and complications. If symptoms are mild, treatment may just mean managing the symptoms until the infection goes away on its own. However, pneumonia may require treatment with antibiotics.

What can I do today?

1) Practice prevention and stop the spread:

  • Wash your hands often and well, and have children do the same.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick – and if you’re sick, stay home from school or work.
  • Cover your sneezes and coughs.
  • Use a tissue once, then throw it away and wash your hands.

2) Pay attention:

  • When mycoplasma pneumonia is going around, pay attention to any symptoms your baby may have. Most infections are mild, but be on the lookout for more serious symptoms.

2) Call your child’s doctor if you notice:

  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing in or out).
  • Severe, long-lasting cough.
  • Fast breathing (more than 40 times a minute) or very difficult breathing (retractions, or using the stomach muscles when breathing).
  • Signs of dehydration (dry mouth and eyes, little urine, low energy).
  • Fever higher than 100.2°F in an infant 3 months or younger.
  • Fever lasting longer than 3 days.
  • Any other severe symptoms or symptoms that last longer than 7 days.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.