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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.


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.

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.


may be used to give you liquids or medicines.


  • 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.
  • During a mental status exam, your healthcare provider may ask you questions. Examples are 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.


  • Antivirals are given to treat pneumonia caused by a virus.
  • Medicine may be given to lower your fever.
  • Steroids may be given to reduce swelling.
  • Vasopressors may be given to raise your blood pressure if pneumonia has caused it to drop below normal.


  • Blood tests may be used to check for a virus that may be causing your pneumonia.
  • X-ray or CT scan pictures are used to check for signs of infection, such as swelling and fluid around your lungs. You may be given contrast liquid before the CT scan so your lungs show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
  • A mucus culture may be tested for other infections and also to find out which virus caused your pneumonia. Your healthcare provider may swab your throat or the inside of your nose to get a mucus sample. He may ask you to cough mucus into a cup.

Respiratory isolation

is a precaution used to protect other people from your germs. Healthcare providers and visitors may wear gloves, a face mask, or a gown. Everyone should wash their hands when they enter and leave your room.


  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.
  • 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 healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (NPPV) may help you breathe without using a breathing tube in your throat. 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 also be given to you through the machine.
  • 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.


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 older adults and people with other health problems.


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.

© 2016 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.