Symptoms of viral pneumonia can be mild or severe. In fact, some people may mistake the symptoms of viral pneumonia for the common cold. If, however, they develop significant pulmonary symptoms such as shortness of breath or intractable coughing, medical care needs to be sought. If you experience symptoms of viral pneumonia, visit the nearest hospital or walk-in clinic, where the physician may recommend the following diagnostic tests and treatment options.
It can be difficult to differentiate between bacterial and viral pneumonia because the symptoms are often similar. When the physician listens to your lungs with a stethoscope, he or she will evaluate your lung sounds. If they are diminished or absent in all fields, viral pneumonia may be the more likely cause. After the doctor listens to your lungs, you will be given a chest x-ray so that the physician can look for fluid in your lungs, thickenings, or pulmonary infiltrates.
Blood tests that check complete blood count and arterial blood gases may also be recommended by the walk-in clinic physician. While a complete blood count, or CBC, cannot reveal the presence or absence of viral pneumonia, it can detect systemic infections. If you have pneumonia, it is likely that your white blood cell count will be elevated. An arterial blood gas test can reveal abnormalities in your blood oxygen levels, which can signify viral pneumonia and other pulmonary disorders.
It is important to note that while antibiotic therapy is typically indicated for bacterial pneumonia, it is not prescribed for those diagnosed with viral pneumonia. Antibiotics are only effective in treating infections that are bacterial in nature, and because viral pneumonia is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective. Instead, your physician may prescribe an antiviral medication to clear your infection and ease your symptoms. In addition, mucolytic medications may also be prescribed to help thin out thick lung mucus so that you can easily expel it when you cough.
If your arterial blood gases are abnormal or if you are having trouble breathing, supplemental oxygen may be administered to ease labored breathing. Drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and eating healthy foods may also help you recover faster from viral pneumonia, but it may take weeks before you regain your strength.
If you experience signs and symptoms of pneumonia, especially if you experience chest pain, high fever, or shortness of breath, you should seek emergency medical treatment. When viral pneumonia is treated while still in its early stages, you are more likely to recover sooner and are less likely to develop permanent lung problems and respiratory distress.