Viral pneumonia is an inflammatory lung infection caused by a virus, MedlinePlus states. This form of pneumonia is resistant to antibiotics and is often triggered by conditions like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus or an adenovirus. Viral pneumonia most often affects children, the elderly and people with immune system deficiencies.
Viral pneumonia typically develops when an existing infection causes fluid buildup or tissue swelling in the alveoli, which are tiny fluid-filled air sacs in the lungs, according to Medical News Today. As the infectious material spreads, the immune system triggers a reaction that causes white blood cells to flood the alveoli, leading to excess fluid and pus. Healthy individuals are less likely to contract this condition because their immune systems are strong enough to fight off the infection.
Pneumonia usually causes fever-like symptoms, including chills, fatigue, sweating and confusion, Medical News Today notes. Infected individuals may also experience coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, diarrhea, headache and muscle pain. Inflamed lungs can produce discolored mucus, and lack of adequate oxygen circulation may cause a purplish skin discoloration known as cyanosis.
Doctors often perform a chest X-ray to distinguish viral pneumonia from other respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis, MedlinePlus states. If the infection is related to pneumonia, patients may be prescribed antiviral medication. In other cases, doctors may suggest conservative treatments, such as increased fluid intake, oxygen or corticosteroids. Patients with weakened immune systems may need to be hospitalized if they develop severe symptoms.