Skip to Content

Viral Pneumonia


Viral pneumonia is a lung infection caused by a virus. Many viruses can cause viral pneumonia, including influenza. You can get a virus by breathing it in or by touching something that has a virus on it. You can also develop viral pneumonia if a virus in your body travels to your lungs. Your risk for viral pneumonia is greater if you are older than 65 or younger than 5, are pregnant, or have a lung disease. Your risk is also greater if you have a long-term medical condition such as heart failure, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS.



  • Antiviral medicine: This is given to treat pneumonia caused by a virus.

  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may help to open your air passages so you can breathe easier. Do not stop taking this medicine without your caregiver's OK. Stopping on your own can cause problems.

  • Over-the-counter medicine: You can buy pain and fever medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider which medicine is safe for you, and how much to take. Follow directions carefully. These medicines can cause serious problems if you use too much.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your follow-up visits.

Avoid the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry germ-killing gel with you. You can use the gel to clean your hands when there is no soap and water available.

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first.

  • Always cover your mouth when you cough. Cough into a tissue or your shirtsleeve so you do not spread germs from your hands.

  • Try to avoid people who have a cold or the flu. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible.

Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you:

Smoking increases your risk of lung infections and pneumonia. Smoking also makes it harder for you to get better after you have a lung infection. Talk to your primary healthcare provider if you want to quit smoking. He may prescribe nicotine replacement medicine or tell you how to find a program to help you quit.


Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.

To prevent influenza (flu), all adults should get the influenza vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available. The pneumococcal vaccine is given to adults aged 65 or older to prevent pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia. Adults aged 19 to 64 years who are at high risk for pneumococcal disease also should get the pneumococcal vaccine. It may need to be repeated 5 years later.

Ask about other vaccines:

If you have immunization records, show them to your primary healthcare provider. You may need other vaccines or booster shots to prevent pneumonia and other infections.

Deep breathing and coughing:

Deep breathing helps open the air passages in your lungs. Coughing helps bring up mucus from your lungs. Take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough. Spit out any mucus you have coughed up. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour that you are awake. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms are not getting better or are getting worse, even after treatment.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are confused and cannot think clearly.

  • You have more trouble breathing or your breathing seems faster than normal.

  • You have chest pain.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.