Pneumonia - viral; Walking pneumonia - viral
Pneumonia is inflamed or swollen lung tissue due to infection with a germ.
Viral pneumonia is caused by a virus.
Viral pneumonia is more likely to occur in young children and older adults. This is because their bodies have a harder time fighting off the virus than people with a strong immune system.
Viral pneumonia is most often caused by one of several viruses:
Serious viral pneumonia is more likely to happen in those with a weakened immune system, such as:
Symptoms of viral pneumonia often begin slowly and may not be severe at first.
The most common symptoms of pneumonia are:
Other symptoms include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about the symptoms.
If the provider thinks you have pneumonia, you will also have a chest x-ray. This is because the physical exam may not be able to tell pneumonia from other respiratory infections.
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, other tests may be done, including:
Antibiotics do not treat this type of lung infection. Medicines that treat viral infections may work against some pneumonias caused by influenza, coronaviruses, and herpes viruses. These medicines may be tried if the infection is caught early.
Treatment may also involve:
A hospital stay may be needed if you are unable to drink enough and to help with breathing if oxygen levels are too low.
People are more likely to be admitted to the hospital if they:
However, many people can be treated at home. You can take these steps at home:
Most cases of viral pneumonia are mild and get better without treatment within 1 to 3 weeks. Some cases are more serious and require a hospital stay.
More serious infections can result in respiratory failure, liver failure, and heart failure. Sometimes, bacterial infections occur during or just after viral pneumonia, which may lead to more serious forms of pneumonia.
Contact your provider if symptoms of viral pneumonia develop or your condition gets worse after starting to improve.
Wash your hands often, after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, diapering a baby, and before eating or preparing food.
Avoid coming into contact with other sick patients.
DO NOT smoke. Tobacco damages your lungs' ability to ward off infection.
A medicine called palivizumab (Synagis) may be given to children under 24 months old to prevent serious RSV illness.
The flu vaccine, is given each year to prevent pneumonia caused by the flu virus. Those who are older and those with diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, or weakened immune systems should be sure to get the flu vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine may help prevent severe pneumonia caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is particularly important for people with weakened immune systems, chronic health conditions, and older adults.
If your immune system is weak, stay away from crowds. Ask visitors who have a cold to wear a mask and wash their hands.
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Fung M, Babik JM, Munger JS, Kaufman DA. COVID-19. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 46a.
McCullers JA. Influenza viruses. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 178.
Musher DM. Overview of pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020;chap 91.
Schmitt ER. Pediatric lung disease. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 164.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/31/2022
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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