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Viral Pneumonia (cont.)

Viral Pneumonia Symptoms

Most viral pneumonias have the following symptoms in common:

  • Low-grade fever (less than 102 F)
  • Coughing up small amounts of mucus
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches

Symptoms of pneumonia caused by a virus other than influenza usually go on for several days to a few weeks before you call your doctor. Most people with bacterial pneumonia and influenza get sick very quickly and see a doctor within a few days.

When to Seek Medical Care for Viral Pneumonia

Go to your hospital's emergency department or call your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms:

  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath, either at rest or with just a little exertion
  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe weakness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Vomiting so much that you are dehydrated
  • Unable to take in food and fluids

Viral Pneumonia Diagnosis

Your doctor will check your temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. A pulse oximeter (a small clamp-like device, which looks like a clothespin) may be put on your finger to check your blood oxygen level. Your doctor will examine you and specifically listen to your heart and lungs to help determine the cause of your symptoms and the severity of your illness. If it is possible that you have pneumonia, you will probably have an X-ray of your chest.

  • Influenza A and B are usually diagnosed clinically, which means the symptoms give the diagnosis. Often screening lab tests can help with the diagnosis. These tests are usually taken from secretions from your nose to help identify the organism.
  • Varicella pneumonia is usually diagnosed clinically because it usually happens during an outbreak of the chickenpox. The chest X-ray is often characteristic after the infection has resolved (small round white dots seen in both lung fields).
  • If your doctor suspects respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a swab of your nose secretions can be sent for testing by a laboratory. Children and infants are more likely to be tested for RSV, because this virus can be more serious in them.
  • Adenovirus and parainfluenza virus are not likely to cause life-threatening illness. Tests are rarely done if these viruses are suspected to be the cause of pneumonia.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2016

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Viral respiratory tract infections are the most common cause of symptomatic human disease among children and adults.

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