Viral Pneumonia: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Investigations, Treatment
Pneumonia is the inflammation of the alveoli or the air sacs of the lungs. It is a very serious disease and commonly affects children and aged individuals. If the cause of the pneumonia is a virus, then it is known as viral pneumonia. The symptoms include: cough, cold, fever and chest pain. Treatment comprises of rest, pain killers, fluids, humidifiers and in some cases antiviral medications.
Causes of Viral Pneumonia
Young children and older individuals are at a higher risk to develop this disease, as their immune system is weak and cannot fight the virus efficiently.
Viral Pneumonia Is Commonly Caused By Many Viruses Such As:
- Parainfluenza virus
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Risk Factors for Viral Pneumonia
There are certain individuals or conditions which puts a person at a higher risk for developing viral pneumonia, such as:
- Premature babies.
- Children who are suffering from heart and lung problems.
- Individuals having HIV infection.
- Individuals who are suffering from cancer and as a result are receiving chemotherapy....and also those medications which make the immune system weak.
- Individuals who have had organ transplants.
Signs and Symptoms of Viral Pneumonia
- Chest pain is present which can be sharp or stabbing in nature, especially if the pneumonia/infection is severe.
- Coughing is present and patient may also cough up mucus which could be blood tinged.
- Fever is present.
- Patient has shaking chills.
- Difficulty in breathing, especially when doing physical activities.
- Mental confusion can be present in older people.
- There is a lot of sweating with clammy skin.
- Patient may also experience headache.
- Patient has no appetite; feels weak and lethargic.
Serious Symptoms/Factors Requiring Medical Attention And Hospital Stay Are:
- If the patient is over 65 years of age and is having mental confusion.
- Patient is experiencing extreme shortness of breath and requires assistance with breathing.
- Rapid drop in blood pressure.
- Patient has prior medical conditions such as heart failure, kidney problems and COPD.
Investigations for Viral Pneumonia
- Complete physical exam.
- Chest x-ray helps in differentiating pneumonia from acute bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
- CT scan of the chest.
- Complete blood count (CBC).
- Blood cultures and tests to detect the type of virus.
- Sputum culture.
- Bronchoscopy is rarely required.
- Nasal swab test is done to check for flu viruses.
- Open lung biopsy is rarely done and that too for very serious medical conditions and when a conclusive diagnosis cannot be reached by other tests.
Treatment for Viral Pneumonia
The aim of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms and to get rid of the infection.
- Usually hospital stay is not required and the patient gets better with rest and medications at home.
- If the patient is dehydrated and the infection is serious, then only a hospital stay is warranted.
- Antibiotics are not required for viral pneumonia. There are antiviral medications available, but they are effective only against influenza pneumonia and herpes family of viruses.
- Some of the antivirals which are given include: Amantadine, rimantadine, ribavirin, oseltamivir, zanamivir, foscarnet, cidofovir and acyclovir.
- NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, help in alleviating fever and body pains.
- Pain medications are also given to relieve chest pain.
- Cough medications are given for relief from cough.
- Patient should rest more.
- Patient should make sure to drink lots of fluids throughout the day.
- Humidifiers should be used, especially at nights.
- Corticosteroid medicines are also used, though their use is debatable.
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