How Long Does Viral Pneumonia Last
Your recovery time depends on how healthy you were before you were diagnosed with viral pneumonia. A young, healthy adult will usually recover faster than other age groups. Most people recover in a week or two. Adults or seniors may take several weeks before they fully recover.
The best way to prevent pneumonia is to practice good hygiene, get the seasonal flu shot every year, and try to avoid those around you who are sick with a cold or the flu.
Facts You Should Know About Viral Pneumonia
- Pneumonia is an infection or inflammation of the lungs. It can be in just one part of the lungs, or it can involve many parts.
- Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms.
- The severity of pneumonia depends on which organism is causing the infection and the immune response of the individual to that infection.
- The deadly pandemic COVID-19 coronavirus causes severe lung symptoms including pneumonia in about 16%-20% of the people who contract it. Five percent of those with severe symptoms need a ventilator to breathe, as of March 2020.
- Viral pneumonias other than the one caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are usually not very serious, but they can be life-threatening in very old and very young patients and in people whose immune systems are weak.
- Another two of the most publicized viral infections causing pneumonia are SARS and H1N1swine flu. Severe acute respiratory syndrome , which is also caused by a virus in the coronavirus family, had a major outbreak in 2003 with an estimated 8,000 cases and 750 deaths.
- Swine flu was associated with an outbreak of pneumonia in 2009. Early reports came from cases in Mexico, with very high mortality. Many cases were also reported in the U.S. However, early identification and treatment helped reduce the death rate significantly.
What Are The Treatment Options
Viral pneumonia usually goes away on its own. Therefore, treatment focuses on easing some of the symptoms. A person with viral pneumonia should get sufficient rest and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
A doctor may prescribe cough-relieving medication to help ease coughing. People should only take cough suppressant medicine if and when a doctor instructs them to because coughing helps clear the infection from the lungs. For those with thick lung mucus, a doctor may prescribe a cough expectorant.
In some cases of viral pneumonia, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medication to reduce viral activity. This treatment tends to be most effective when the virus is in the early stage of infection.
In rare instances, a doctor may hospitalize a person with viral pneumonia. People over the age of 65 or with chronic health conditions are more likely to need hospital care. The very young are also at higher risk for serious viral pneumonia.
The viruses that cause viral pneumonia are contagious. During the cold and flu season, a person can take steps to stay healthy. These steps may protect against viral pneumonia and other viral illnesses.
Some techniques that people can use to try to prevent getting sick include:
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Can Pneumonia Be Prevented
The flu vaccine is recommended for all kids ages 6 months through 19 years. Its extra important for kids who have a chronic illness such as a heart or lung disorder or asthma.
When possible, keep kids away from anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection.
When To Call The Doctor
You should call your childs doctor if your child:
- Has trouble breathing or is breathing much faster than usual
- Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
- Is older than 6 months and has a fever over 102°F
- Is younger than 6 months and has a temperature over 100.4°F.
- Has a fever for more than a few days after taking antibiotics
When your child should stay home and return to school or childcare
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How Common Is Pneumonia
Approximately 1 million adults in the United States are hospitalized each year for pneumonia and 50,000 die from the disease. It is the second most common reason for being admitted to the hospital — childbirth is number one. Pneumonia is the most common reason children are admitted to the hospital in the United States. Seniors who are hospitalized for pneumonia face a higher risk of death compared to any of the top 10 other reasons for hospitalization.
What’s The Link Between Covid
A quick refresher first: COVID-19 is a serious respiratory illness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. It can lead to a range of intense symptoms, including a cough, fever, trouble breathing, and loss of taste or smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Pneumonia is an infection of the tiny air sacs in the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people, the CDC says.
Some patients with COVID-19 develop pneumoniain fact, the World Health Organization first called the virus -infected pneumonia , before shortening the name to COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus was also first identified in Wuhan, China due to cases of “pneumonia of unknown etiology,” or unknown cause, the WHO reported in January 2020.
It’s not uncommon to develop pneumonia as the result of any virus, Raymond Casciari, MD, a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, tells Health. In the case of COVID-19, the virus can damage your alveoli and cause fluid to build in your lungs as your body fights the infection, he explains. That can also lead to the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome , which is a serious form of respiratory failure that makes the alveoli fill with fluid. “The immune system starts attacking the lung itself, which results in ARDS,” Dr. Casciari says.
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Who Is Most At Risk For Getting Pneumonia
People who have an increased risk of pneumonia include:
- People over the age of 65 and infants under age 2. The weakening immune system of older people makes them less able to fight off illnesses. Similarly, the immune system of infants is still developing and not at full-strength, making them more susceptible to infection.
- People with a health-caused weakened immune system. Examples include:
- People who are receiving chemotherapy
- Transplanted organ recipients
- People who have HIV/AIDS
- People with autoimmune disease and who are taking medications that suppress the immune system.
What Is The Recovery Time For Covid Pneumonia
Dr. Lee: Regardless of what causes it, regaining strength after pneumonia can take quite a long time from several weeks to many months.
During COVID pneumonia recovery, your body first has to repair the damage caused to the lungs then it has to deal with clearing leftover fluid and debris and, finally, scarring until the tissue is fully healed over all of which come with unpleasant symptoms.
For the 15% of infected individuals who develop moderate to severe COVID-19 and are admitted to the hospital for a few days and require oxygen, the average recovery time ranges between three to six weeks.
For the 5% who develop severe or critical illness, recovery can take much longer.
Everyone’s recovery is unique and depends on:
- Your overall health
- Whether you have preexisting conditions
- The severity of your infection
If you are recovering from COVID pneumonia and experiencing persistent problems, I recommend seeing your doctor for a follow-up evaluation. If your recovery is prolonged, he or she may recommend a specialized program, such as pulmonary rehabilitation, to help get you back on track.
In some cases, patients will have lingering symptoms after the initial COVID-19 infection, often called post-COVID syndrome. These “long haulers” can have variety of problems, since the virus can attack not only the lungs, but also the heart, kidneys and brain. Your doctor can also help you manage these lingering symptoms.
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How Will The Doctor Treat My Viral Pneumonia
- In a viral infection, antibiotics wont help therefore, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications.
- Plenty of fluids and medicines to bring down fever and chest congestion may be prescribed by your doctor.
- Depending on the microorganism causing the infection, you may receive antivirals such as Tamiflu to stop the spread of flu virus in your body.
- If you have been diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus pneumonia, you may receive ribavirin to limit the spread of viruses.
- It is important to get plenty of rest to get over this infection.
- Talk to your doctor before taking cough or cold medicines, especially in the case of children.
- Supplements such as vitamin C, zinc and B vitamins may help speed recovery.
- After treatment, check your lungs to make sure they are all clear.
- In severe cases if you have breathlessness, you may need to be hospitalized for oxygen therapy and intravenous fluid therapy. If it gets worse, you may require a ventilator.
Besides Vaccination What Else Can I Do To Prevent Bacterial And Viral Pneumonia
Receiving all recommended vaccinations is one of the best ways to prevent pneumonia. Additionally, there are several other ways to prevent pneumonia, including:
- Quitting smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke. Smoking damages your lungs.
- Washing your hands before eating, before handling food, after using the restroom, and after being outside. If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoiding being around people who are sick. Ask them to visit when they are feeling better.
- Not touching or sharing objects that are shared with others. Germs can be transferred from object to you if you touch your nose or mouth without washing or sanitizing your hands first.
- Eating a healthy diet, exercise, and get enough rest. Healthy habits keep your immune system strong.
- Getting treated for any other infections or health conditions you may have. These conditions could weaken your immune system, which could increase your chance of infections.
- Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol.
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Peppermint Eucalyptus And Fenugreek Tea
Many warm herbal teas can help soothe a scratchy throat, but herbs may be more beneficial.
A 2011 study found that herbs, including peppermint and eucalyptus, had a soothing effect on the throats of people with upper respiratory tract infections. These herbs may help break up mucus and ease the pain and inflammation caused by pneumonia.
A review from 2018 notes that fenugreek seeds might help break down mucus. A tea made from ground fenugreek seeds may therefore ease a persistent cough.
Eucalyptus and tea tree oils may also help relieve coughs. People can use these in a diffuser. However, they should try limiting their exposure at first, to ensure that the use of oils does not worsen their symptoms.
How Is Pneumonia Treated
When you get a pneumonia diagnosis, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. Treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia you have, how sick you are feeling, your age, and whether you have other health conditions. The goals of treatment are to cure the infection and prevent complications. It is important to follow your treatment plan carefully until you are fully recovered.
Take any medications as prescribed by your doctor. If your pneumonia is caused by bacteria, you will be given an antibiotic. It is important to take all the antibiotic until it is gone, even though you will probably start to feel better in a couple of days. If you stop, you risk having the infection come back, and you increase the chances that the germs will be resistant to treatment in the future.
Typical antibiotics do not work against viruses. If you have viral pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat it. Sometimes, though, symptom management and rest are all that is needed.
Most people can manage their symptoms such as fever and cough at home by following these steps:
If your pneumonia is so severe that you are treated in the hospital, you may be given intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as oxygen therapy, and possibly other breathing treatments.
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How Can I Manage My Symptoms
- Rest as needed. Rest often while you recover. Slowly start to do more each day.
- Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help thin your mucus, which may make it easier for you to cough it up.
- Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking makes it harder for you to get better. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Use a cool mist humidifier. A humidifier will help increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
- Keep your head elevated. You may be able to breathe better if you lie down with the head of your bed up.
Apply A Lukewarm Compress Or Take A Lukewarm Bath
Submerging your body in a lukewarm bath might help you bring down your body temperature.
You can also use a lukewarm compress to help cool your body from the outside inward if a bath is not convenient. Although it may be tempting to use a cold compress, the sudden temperature shift can cause chills. A lukewarm compress provides a more gradual, comfortable temperature change.
Chills may come on before or during a fever. They typically subside after your fever breaks. This may last up to a week, depending on when you begin treatment for pneumonia.
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When Would I Need To Be Hospitalized For Pneumonia
If your case of pneumonia is more severe, you may need tostay in the hospital for treatment. Hospital treatments may include:
- Fluids, antibiotics and other medicines given through an IV
- Breathing treatments and exercises to help loosen mucus
People most likely to be hospitalized are those who are most frail and/or at increased risk, including:
- Babies and young children
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with health conditions that affect the heart and lungs
It may take six to eight weeks to return to a normal level of functioning and well-being if youve been hospitalized with pneumonia.
Critical Role Of Pneumococcal Vaccine In Preventing Pneumonia
In children aged three months to four years, the most common type of bacterial pneumonia is Strep. pneumoniae. In children greater than age four, it remains in the top three most common types. The pneumococcal vaccine series, started at two months of age, significantly reduces the rates of bacterial pneumonia from Strep. Pneumoniae. The vaccine is usually administered during wellness or prevention visits and cannot be given to a child with a fever. This emphasizes the need for healthcare access globally.6
With global vaccination rates currently plateauing, the challenges of diagnosing and treating community acquired pneumonia are even more pertinent for prevention of severe respiratory illness. Vaccine uptake challenges can be overcome with global measures to increase the access and use of vaccines. Addressing vaccine use and providing education about common pneumonia symptoms can aid in early diagnosis of pneumonia and lower the rate of severe respiratory illness and prolonged hospitalization.
World Health Organization Health Topics. Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals: National programs and systems on improving vaccination demand and addressing hesitancy. 17 June 2020 update.
Popovsky EY, Florin TA. Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Childhood. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences. 2020 B978-0-08-102723-3.00013-5. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-102723-3.00013-5
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Is There A Vaccine For Pneumonia
There isnt a vaccine for all types of pneumonia, but 2 vaccines are available. These help prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. The first is recommended for all children younger than 5 years of age. The second is recommended for anyone age 2 or older who is at increased risk for pneumonia. Getting the pneumonia vaccine is especially important if you:
- Are 65 years of age or older.
- Have certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell disease, or cirrhosis.
- Have a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS, kidney failure, a damaged or removed spleen, a recent organ transplant, or receiving chemotherapy.
- Have cochlear implants .
The pneumococcal vaccines cant prevent all cases of pneumonia. But they can make it less likely that people who are at risk will experience the severe, and possibly life-threatening, complications of pneumonia.
Is Pneumonia Contagious
Certain types of pneumonia are contagious . Pneumonia caused by bacteria or viruses can be contagious when the disease-carrying organisms are breathed into your lungs. However, not everyone who is exposed to the germs that cause pneumonia will develop it.
Pneumonia caused by fungi are not contagious. The fungi are in soil, which becomes airborne and inhaled, but it is not spread from person to person.
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