Duration & Symptoms of Viral Pneumonia

Updated February 21, 2017

Although often called "walking pneumonia," hardly anyone feels well enough to carry on as usual with viral pneumonia. Viral pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by a virus present in less serious infections. Although not considered as serious as bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia can develop into the more health-threatening form if not treated or if contracted by a compromised immune system. Vaccinations can protect anyone, but particularly those with special health needs.


The major symptoms of viral pneumonia last from 1 to 3 weeks, but the weakness caused by the lack of oxygen to muscles and tissues, and effects of dehydration and limited nutrition, can last several weeks after the virus has left the respiratory system.


Viral pneumonia is caused by infections from viruses ranging from influenza to rhino virus, and will develop following one of these illnesses.

Early Symptoms

Dry cough, headache, muscular stiffness, fever, sore throat and fatigue--many of the same symptoms as the illness that preceded viral pneumonia--will become more serious

Progressive symptoms

As the virus takes hold, the patient may suffer chills, sweating, exhibit clammy skin and experience joint pain.


Nausea and vomiting may cause dehydration and an inability to maintain needed nutrition.


Shortness of breath or an inability to breathe, leading to lack of oxygen, is what drives most stubborn sufferers to the doctor's office eventually.

Danger signs

Most viral pneumonia episodes are resolved with bed rest, fluids and, occasionally, antiviral medications, but repeated or serious infections can lead to bacterial pneumonia or respiratory, heart or liver failure. Any sign of these serious conditions should be investigated immediately.

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About the Author

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.