Viral pneumonia is a lung infection that is triggered by a virus. Pneumonia can also be caused by fungus, bacteria or chemicals. The symptoms of viral pneumonia are somewhat similar to other types of pneumonia but can be less severe than the bacterial type. The common symptoms typically include the following:
- Cough (can be productive)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain when breathing deeply or coughing
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Appetite loss
Always bear in mind that the symptoms of viral pneumonia can start in a similar way with other types of flu such as weakness, fever, body aches and dry cough.
After a few days, the condition can progress to worsened breathing difficulty, high fever and a sore cough. Even though the course of the illness is not the same for everybody, this is common in most cases.
What are the causes?
Viral pneumonia frequently develops as a complication of prevalent viral infections such as flu, upper respiratory infection and common cold. Viral pneumonia is usually less severe than other types and can resolve within 1-3 weeks.
Some types of viral pneumonia particularly those triggered by the influenza virus can be severe and even deadly. There is still lack of evidence that the lungs are being filled with fluid and can quickly lead to severe shortness of breath or gasping for air. Those who face the highest risk for this type of viral pneumonia include those who have current lung and heart issues as well as pregnant women.
In some circumstances, an individual with viral pneumonia can also end up with bacterial pneumonia once bacteria invade the lungs. This occurs since the body is attempting to fight off the viral infection and the immune system is no longer strong as it was before.
It is important to note that antibiotics are not effective against viral pneumonia. In most cases, the treatment is focused on managing the symptoms and allowing the virus to runs its full course. In case there is evidence that the individual also developed the bacterial type, antibiotics might be prescribed. Oftentimes, the doctor might also prescribe antiviral medications to manage viral cases. There are several measures to be familiar with if an individual has viral pneumonia.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen up mucus in the lungs. This will allow the individual to cough it out more effectively and keep him/her hydrated so that the body can easily heal.
- The individual should be allowed to rest as much as possible.
- Avoid using cough medications unless advised by the doctor. Suppressing the cough when pneumonia is present will prevent the mucus in the lungs from being expelled, which can actually worsen the condition.
- The individual can take over-the-counter pain medications or fever medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin if required.
The complications from viral pneumonia are considered rare but can occur. The possible complications can include the following:
- Respiratory failure or acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Emphysema or lung abscess
The complications are quite common among individuals included in the high risk group such as adults over 65 years old, infants, individuals with chronic health conditions such as COPD or heart disease as well as those who smoke.
It is vital to minimize the risk for acquiring viral infections in order to minimize the chance of developing viral pneumonia. Getting the flu vaccine on a yearly basis, observing proper cold and flu prevention practices as well as monitoring the symptoms can help minimize the risk. In case an individual is at high risk, a doctor should be consulted regarding a vaccine for pneumonia and if it is right for the individual.