Doctor's Notes on Viral Pneumonia
Viral pneumonia is an infection of the lung by a viral type or strain. Signs and symptoms of viral pneumonia common to most viral lung infections include low fever (less than 102 F), coughing up some mucus, tiredness, and muscle aches. Severe viral infection signs and symptoms may include persistent cough, shortness of breath, severe chest pain and weakness, coughing up blood, vomiting, dehydration, and an inability to eat or drink. Severe infections of some viruses like influenza A type H1N1 may cause death in some patients.
Causes of most viral pneumonias can be influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV, usually in children), adenovirus, parainfluenza, and rarely, varicella viruses. Occasionally, outbreaks occur with other viruses, such as COVID-19.
What Is the Treatment for Viral Pneumonia?
For most viral pneumonias, there are no treatments that directly target the virus (antibiotics are not indicated). If the virus is a flu virus, an antiviral drug like oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), or peramivir (Rapivab) may reduce the length and severity of the disease. If RSV viruses are causing the illness, ribavirin may limit the spread of the illness. Supportive treatments depend on the severity of infection:
- Oxygen by nasal cannula
- Oxygen by face mask
- Anti-immune globulin from patient survivors of the same viral infection may help some individuals.
- Mechanical ventilation (intubation)
Depending on your individual medical condition, many other supportive treatments may be included such as hospital bed rest, rehydration, pain control, and others.
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Bacterial PneumoniaBacterial pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. People with pneumonia usually experience coughing, fever, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Pneumonia is a leading cause of death from infection.
Bronchitis (Chronic)Bronchitis is inflammation of the air passages in the lungs. There are several viruses and bacteria that cause bronchitis. Exposure to pollutants or tobacco smoke are also risks. Bronchitis is contagious if it is viral or bacterial. It is not contagious if it is due to smoking, air pollution, and other inhaled irritants. Symptoms of bronchitis include cough, sore throat, wheezing, fever, chills, etc. Treatment for bronchitis depends on the cause.
Chemical PneumoniaChemical pneumonia is a type of lung irritation. Many substances can cause chemical pneumonia including liquids, gasses, dust, fumes, and lung aspiration. Symptoms and signs of chemical pneumonia include burning eyes, lips, mouth, throat, dry cough, nausea, abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, and pleuritis. Treatment of chemical pneumonia depends on the toxic and amount of exposure.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prevention TipsSevere acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus that causes COVID-19. Reduce your risk of infection with the following tips: wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol; avoid touching your face if your hands aren't washed; practice social distancing (maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet).
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.