Viral Pneumonia

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

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.


CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

Viral pneumonia can progress to bacterial pneumonia, which is a more serious illness. You could develop respiratory failure and need a ventilator to help you breathe. You could develop sepsis, which is a life-threatening blood infection. Viral pneumonia can be life-threatening, especially in young children, older patients, and people with other health problems.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Monitoring:

You may need any of the following:

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

  • Mental status exam: Your caregiver may ask you what time it is, where you are, or who you are with. This test is used to check for confusion and other ways viral pneumonia may affect your brain.

Medicines:

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

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics do not treat viral pneumonia, but you may receive this medicine to prevent bacterial pneumonia.

  • Antipyretics: This medicine is given to decrease a fever.

  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may help to open your air passages so you can breathe easier.

  • Vasopressors: This medicine is given to raise your blood pressure if pneumonia has caused it to drop below normal.

Tests:

  • Blood tests: Your blood may be tested for other infections and also to find out which virus caused your pneumonia.

  • Chest x-ray: Caregivers use x-rays to check for signs of infection, such as swelling and fluid around your lungs.

  • CT scan: This is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your chest. Caregivers use the pictures to check for signs of lung damage or infection. You may be given dye before the CT scan so your caregiver can see the pictures better. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. You may also be allergic to the dye.

  • Mucus culture: Your caregiver may swab your throat or the inside of your nose to get a sample of your mucus. He may ask you to cough mucus into a cup. The mucus is sent to a lab to be tested for viruses that cause pneumonia.

Treatment:

  • IV: You may be given antibiotics or liquids through an IV.

  • Respiratory isolation: You may be given a private room to protect other people from your germs. Caregivers and visitors may wear gloves, a face mask, or a gown. Everyone should wash their hands when they enter and leave your room.

  • Deep breathing and coughing: Deep breathing helps to open the air passages in your lungs. Coughing helps to bring up sputum (mucus) from your lungs. You can deep breathe and cough on your own, or with the help of an incentive spirometer.

    • 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. Put any sputum that you have coughed up into a tissue and throw it away. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour that you are awake, even during the night. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.

    • An incentive spirometer can help you take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a steady, deep breath in. Hold your breath as long as you can, and then exhale (breathe out). Use your incentive spirometer 10 times every hour that you are awake, even during the night.

  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your caregiver before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

  • NPPV: Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation, or NPPV, may help you breathe without using a breathing tube in your throat. Instead, a machine helps your lungs fill with air by using a mask or a mouthpiece. If a mask is used, it may go over your nose and mouth, or just your nose. Extra oxygen may be given to you through the machine also. NPPV may help you avoid needing a breathing tube, or may be used if you do not want one.

  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.

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 caregiver if you want to quit smoking. He may prescribe nicotine replacement medicine or tell you how to find a program to help you quit.

© 2014 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.

Learn more about Viral Pneumonia (Inpatient Care)

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