Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is an infection that causes irritation, swelling, and congestion in the lungs. It is also called pneumonitis (nu-mo-NI-tis). Viral pneumonia occurs most often in the winter. 135287-main_Full


The infection begins when a virus is inhaled and settles in the lungs. The illness usually starts as a cold.


The most common symptoms are a headache, fever and chills, muscle aches, and a cough that brings up sputum. Breathing may be difficult or painful. You may lose your appetite and feel tired.pneumonia-virus-protein-model-discovered_5965


If you have no other illnesses or problems, you can be treated at home. You need a humidifier to loosen your sputum (making it easier to cough up), and rest. Antibiotics do not work against viruses. However, if you see your doctor within 48 hours of the start of your symptoms, you may be given another type of drug called Amantadine (uh-MAN-tuh-deen) which helps treat certain viruses.

Hospital Care

If your illness gets worse, or if you have other problems (such as diabetes or heart failure), you may need a stay in the hospital. There your care will be similar, but you can be carefully monitored.


Viral pneumonia lowers your body's immunity, so that other infections can take hold. Without the right care, you could develop a bacterial infection.


  • Always take your medicine as directed. If you feel it is not helping, call your doctor. Do not quit taking it on your own.
  • If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.
  • If you are coughing up sputum and milk seems to make the sputum thicker, do not eat or drink dairy products.
  • If you do not have to limit the amount of liquids you drink, drink 8 to 10 (soda-can sized) glasses of water each day. This helps thin the sputum so it can be coughed up more easily.
  • To help free your lungs of infection, take 2 or 3 deep breaths and then cough. Do this often during the day.
  • Use a humidifier to help keep the air moist and your sputum thin. This makes it easier to cough up the sputum. You must keep the humidifier free of fungus. Clean it every day.
  • Stay inside during very cold or hot weather, or on days when the air pollution is high. This will make it easier to breathe and will help control your cough.
  • Rest at home until you feel better. You may return to work or school when your temperature is around 98.6 degrees F (37 degrees C). Slowly increase your activity. You may feel weak and tired for up to 6 weeks after your illness.
  • If you have chest pain, apply a heating pad (set on low) or warm cloths to the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day. This may ease the pain, making it easier to breathe.
  • Because you have had pneumonia, it may be easier for you to get other lung infections. Try to stay away from people who have colds or the flu. Get shots against flu and pneumonia.
  • To help free your lungs of infection, take 2 or 3 deep breaths and then cough. Do this often during the day.
  • Quit smoking. It harms the lungs. If you are having trouble quitting, ask your doctor for help.
  • Make an appointment for another chest x-ray, if your doctor thinks one is necessary.

Call Your Doctor If...

  • You have a high temperature
  • Your chest pain does not get better in a few days.
  • You get nauseated, have vomiting, or develop diarrhea.
  • You are coughing up bloody or pink, frothy sputum.
  • You have problems, such as a rash, itching, swelling, or stomach pain, that may be caused by any medicine you are taking.
  • Another family member shows signs of pneumonia.
  • You continue to have fever and chills, and feel worse.


What to Expect While You're There

You may encounter the following procedures and equipment during your stay.

  • Activity: At first you will need to rest in bed, with a few pillows to keep you sitting up a little. This will help your breathing. Do not lie flat. Once you are breathing more easily, you will be allowed to increase your exercise.
  • Taking Vital Signs: These include your temperature, blood pressure, pulse (counting your heartbeats), and respirations (counting your breaths). A stethoscope is used to listen to your heart and lungs. Your blood pressure is taken by wrapping a cuff around your arm.
  • Oxygen: Your body may need extra oxygen at this time. It is given either by a mask or nasal prongs. Tell your doctor if the oxygen is drying out your nose or if the nasal prongs bother you.
  • Pulse Oximeter: While you are getting oxygen, you may be hooked up to a pulse oximeter (ox-IM-uh-ter). It is placed on your ear, finger, or toe and is connected to a machine that measures the oxygen in your blood.
  • ECG: Also called a heart monitor, an electrocardiograph (e-lec-tro-CAR-dee-o-graf), or EKG. The patches on your chest are hooked up to a TV-type screen or a small portable box (telemetry unit). This screen shows a tracing of each heartbeat. Your heart will be watched for signs of injury or damage that could be related to your illness.
  • 12 Lead ECG: This test makes tracings from different parts of your heart. It can help your doctor decide whether there is a heart problem.
  • Chest X-ray: This picture of your lungs and heart shows how well they are handling your illness.
  • Blood: Usually taken from a vein in your hand or from the bend in your elbow. Tests will be done on the blood.
  • Blood Gases: Blood is taken from an artery in your wrist, elbow, or groin. It is tested for the amount of oxygen it contains.
IV: Is a tube placed in your vein for giving medicine or liquids. It will be capped or have tubing connected to it.

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