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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, 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.


Seek care immediately if:

  • You are confused and cannot think clearly.
  • You have more trouble breathing or your breathing seems faster than normal.
  • You have chest pain.

Contact your 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.


  • Antiviral medicine is given to treat pneumonia caused by a virus. This medicine works best if used within 72 hours of infection. After 72 hours, the medicine can still help shorten the amount of time you have the virus, or reduce your symptoms.
  • Steroids are used to reduce swelling.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may reduce your pain or fever. These medicines are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is safe for you, and how much to take. Follow directions carefully. These medicines can cause stomach bleeding. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Ibuprofen can cause kidney damage.
  • 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 healthcare provider as directed:

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

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.

Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you:

Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.


  • Use a room humidifier. You may be able to cough up more phlegm after you breathe moist air.
  • Get plenty of rest. Rest often while you recover. Slowly start to do more each day.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids can help prevent dehydration if you are vomiting. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids to drink. Liquids help make mucus thin and easier to get out of your body.

Prevent viral pneumonia:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry germ-killing hand gel with you. You can use the gel to clean your hands when soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first.
  • Clean surfaces often. Clean doorknobs, countertops, cell phones, and other surfaces that are touched often.
  • 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.
  • Get the influenza vaccine each year to prevent the flu. The virus that causes the flu can also cause viral pneumonia. If you have immunization records, show them to your healthcare provider. You may need other vaccines or booster shots to prevent pneumonia and other infections.

© 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.