Viral pneumonia: what it is, main symptoms and treatment

Viral pneumonia is a type of infection in the lungs that leads to inflammation of the respiratory system and results in the appearance of some symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath and cough, which get worse over time. This type of pneumonia occurs more frequently in people who have a weaker immune system, such as children and the elderly, especially.

The main viruses that cause this type of pneumonia are viruses that cause colds and flu, such as Influenza   type A, B or C ,  H1N1, H5N1 and the new coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19) in addition to others such as parainfluenza virus, virus respiratory syncytial and adenovirus, for example, which can be carried in the drops of saliva or respiratory secretion that are suspended in the air from one infected person to another.

Although viruses related to viral pneumonia are easily transmitted from one person to another, the person does not always develop pneumonia, most often develops symptoms of cold or flu, since the immune system is able to fight this virus. However, even if the risk of developing pneumonia is not high, it is important to take precautionary measures, such as avoiding close contact with the sick person and having good hygiene habits by washing your hands regularly.

Symptoms of viral pneumonia

Symptoms of viral pneumonia can appear a few days after contact with the virus, and worsen over the course of days, the main signs and symptoms being:

  • Dry cough, which progresses to cough with clear, white or pink phlegm;
  • Chest painand difficulty breathing;
  • Feverup to 39ºC;
  • Sore throator ear;
  • Rhinitis or conjunctivitis, which can accompany the symptoms.

In older people, the symptoms of pneumonia can also include mental confusion, extreme tiredness and poor appetite, even if there is no fever. In babies or children, it is also very common to have very rapid breathing that causes the wings of the nose to open too much.

Viral pneumonia differs from bacterial pneumonia in that it usually starts more suddenly, produces a more transparent or white phlegm, in addition to having other signs of viral infection, such as nasal congestion, sinusitis, eye irritation and sneezing, for example, however, it can be difficult to differentiate between the 2 types of infection, without doing any tests. However, it is important that the doctor performs tests to identify the agent that causes pneumonia and, therefore, the treatment of pneumonia is as effective as possible.

How to tell if your baby has pneumonia

In the case of babies, parents may be suspicious of pneumonia when the flu symptoms presented by the baby are slow to pass or worsen throughout the week, such as a fever that does not go down, a constant cough, a lack of appetite, rapid breathing and difficulty breathing, for example. example.

It is important that the baby is taken to the pediatrician for tests to be done and the diagnosis to be completed, initiating the appropriate treatment. In addition, it is important to have some care during the baby’s treatment, such as:

  • Inhalation with saline solution 2 to 3 times a day or according to the pediatrician’s instructions;
  • Encourage the baby to breastfeed or eat, giving preference to fruit, breast milk or formula;
  • Give water to the baby;
  • Dress the baby according to the temperature, avoiding sudden changes in temperature;
  • Avoid using cough remedies that have not been indicated by the pediatrician, as they can facilitate the accumulation of secretions in the lung.

In the most severe cases, in which the baby does not want to eat, is short of breath or has a fever above 39ºC, the pediatrician may recommend hospitalization to receive oxygen, make medicine in the vein and receive serum while he cannot feed.

How to confirm the diagnosis

To confirm the diagnosis of this disease, the doctor may request samples of respiratory secretions from the nose and throat, for analysis in the laboratory, which should be collected, ideally, by the 3rd day of the disease, but which can be collected by the 7th day after the symptoms to identify the virus.

In addition, tests such as chest X-rays are used to assess lung involvement, and blood tests, such as blood count and arterial blood gases, to assess blood oxygenation, and thus check the degree and severity of the infection. In any case of suspected pneumonia, it is advisable to have a consultation with the general practitioner or pediatrician or pulmonologist, or to go to the emergency room, to initiate the appropriate treatment and prevent the disease from getting worse.

How the treatment is done

The treatment for viral infections is guided by the doctor, and should be done with some guidelines such as:

  • Rest at home, avoiding going to school or work;
  • Good hydration, with water, tea, coconut water or natural juice;
  • Light diet, avoiding fatty foods.

In addition, treating viral pneumonia or the flu caused by the H1N1, H5N1 viruses or the new coronavirus (COVID-19), in people who are at increased risk of developing pneumonia, such as the elderly and children, also involves using antiviral drugs, prescribed by the general practitioner or pulmonologist, such as Oseltamivir, Zanamivir and Ribavirin, for example.

The treatment can be done at home, however when the person shows signs of severity, such as difficulty in breathing, low blood oxygenation, mental confusion or changes in the functioning of the kidneys, for example, hospitalization may be necessary to perform medications in the vein and use of oxygen mask. Find out more details on  how to treat viral pneumonia .

How to prevent

To prevent viral infections of any kind, it is very important to keep your hands clean, washing or using alcohol gel, whenever you visit public places, with the bus, shopping malls and markets, in addition to avoid sharing personal items, such as cutlery and glasses .

The flu vaccine, applied annually, is also an important way to prevent infection by the main types of viruses

 

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