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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Viral Pneumonia

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Exams and Tests for Pneumonia

To see if you have pneumonia, your doctor will check your temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. A small clamp, which looks like a clothespin, can be put on your finger to check your blood oxygen level. Your doctor will 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 a chest X-ray. Blood tests are not very helpful in diagnosing pneumonia except in special circumstances.

  • Influenza A and B are usually diagnosed through its symptoms -- fever, headache, body aches, tiredness, cough, runny nose. No lab tests are needed. Sometimes, secretions from your nose can be tested to help identify the organism.
  • Varicella pneumonia usually occurs during an outbreak of the chickenpox which makes it fairly easy to diagnose.
  • If your doctor suspects respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a swab of your nose secretions can be sent for testing by a lab. Children and infants are more likely to be tested for RSV, because this virus can be more serious for 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.

Viral Pneumonia Treatment

Home Remedies for Viral Pneumonia 

  • If you've been diagnosed with viral pneumonia, you need to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • If you overexert yourself when you are sick, even with a virus, you can prevent your immune system from fighting off the illness, and possibly get even sicker.
  • You can use over-the-counter drugs to reduce fever, body aches, and cough. Although some medications can help you feel better, you still need rest. These drugs won't cure you, and your body still needs rest to have the energy to fight the infection and to heal itself. 

Medical Treatment for Viral Pneumonia 

If you are diagnosed with a viral pneumonia, an antibiotic will not help you get better faster. Antibiotics work only on illnesses caused by bacteria. Your best treatment is to rest and keep yourself hydrated.

  • If your doctor suspects your pneumonia is caused by an influenza virus, you may get a prescription for an anti-flu drug. It must be started within 36 hours of the beginning of symptoms to help. Four drugs are available: amantadine (Symadine), rimantadine (Flumadine), and oseltamivir (Tamiflu) are pills or capsules. Zanamivir (Relenza) is a powder that you inhale directly into your lungs.
  • Varicella pneumonia is almost always serious enough to need treatment with acyclovir (Zovirax). You can take this drug by mouth or, if you are severely ill and in the hospital, by IV.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus usually needs just treatment of the symptoms. If you are sick enough to be in the hospital, you might be treated with ribavirin (Rebetol).
  • Treatment of adenovirus and parainfluenza virus pneumonia aims to relieve symptoms.
  • Because your lungs are weakened, your doctor may use an antibiotic to prevent you from developing a bacterial pneumonia.

 

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