Viral Pneumonia Overview

May 7th 2016

While symptoms of viral pneumonia may be mild at first, it is always a good idea for individuals who believe they may be infected to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Prompt diagnosis of viral pneumonia allows for immediate treatment and can help to prevent complications.

How Viral Pneumonia is Spread

Viral pneumonia is spread through fluid droplets of infected individuals that travel through the air following bouts of coughing or sneezing. The illness can also be transferred when healthy people touch objects that are contaminated with the viral particles and proceed to touch their nose or rub their eyes.

Viral Pneumonia Symptoms

Symptoms of viral pneumonia include a dry or hacking cough, shortness of breath following episodes of exertion, mild to high fever and chest discomfort upon coughing or taking deep breaths. Sufferers may also experience muscle aches, shaking chills and exhaustion. Headache and body sweats are also common symptoms.

Individuals with viral pneumonia who are over 65 years of age or those who experience additional symptoms such as confusion, lowered blood pressure or accelerated breathing should seek immediate medical attention. Sufferers with pre-existing conditions of the heart or kidneys may be required to stay in the hospital for the duration of their illness.

Viral Pneumonia Complications

In many instances, viral pneumonia infections resolve with proper treatment within a few weeks' time. However, complications such as respiratory failure and liver failure can occur. Viral pneumonia can also lead to secondary bacterial pneumonia infections.

Viral Pneumonia Diagnosis

Viral pneumonia is diagnosed through physical examinations in which physicians listen to the lungs with a stethoscope to hear crackling or wheezing sounds, chest X-rays, sputum culture tests and blood tests. Computed tomography scans, also referred to as CT scans, may also be required to check for signs of infection in the lungs.

Viral Pneumonia Treatments

Viral pneumonia is not treatable with antibiotics, as the infections are not caused by bacteria. However, antiviral medications are often prescribed. Additional treatments include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce fever, oxygen treatments and humidifier treatments. Individuals with viral pneumonia should only take cough medications when advised by a physician. Doctors also recommend increased fluid intake and extra bed rest to encourage healing and recovery.


Viral pneumonia is a viral infection of the lungs that most commonly occurs in older adults and younger children. The infection causes the lungs to become inflamed, which can hinder oxygen flow. Approximately 30 percent of all pneumonia cases are caused by viruses, including rhinoviruses and influenza viruses. Viral pneumonia can also be caused by adenoviruses, the same viruses that cause pink eye infections.

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