Symptoms and Signs of Viral Pneumonia

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2021

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
  • Steroids
  • 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.

Do I Have Pneumonia? Symptoms & Signs Quiz

Pneumonia Quiz

What is pneumonia?

See Answer

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.