How is viral pneumonia treated?

Photo of a person taking tablets

Pneumonia is usually caused by . But if it is caused by viruses, medications called virostatics are used depending on the type of and the severity of the . Antibiotics are still useful, though.

Virostatics are specially designed to fight viruses. The various types target different areas. For instance, some block enzymes that the needs to infect human cells. Others stop the from reproducing.

There is very little research into the use of virostatics to treat viral , though. It is therefore still unclear whether, and if so, to what extent which medication can stop a viral from developing into , or if it can make viral less severe or go away faster.

Which active ingredients can be used, and by whom?

Neuraminidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir and zanamivir are mostly used to treat flu viruses. But they are only recommended for people who are treated in the hospital for severe symptoms or who are at an increased risk of complications, because of things like previous illnesses or older age.

Only the remdesivir virostatic is currently conditionally approved to treat caused by COVID-19. It is used if breathing has become so difficult that extra oxygen is needed.

Why are antibiotics also given?

In viral , there is a risk that might also attack the infected lung tissue. That can make the illness worse. This is why people with viral are usually also given . These medications don’t actually help to fight off the viruses, but they can protect against an additional bacterial .

What else is done?

Additional oxygen might be given in severe cases with difficulty breathing. Mechanical ventilation might also be needed if lung function is severely impaired. Cortisone is an option, too. The cortisone-like active ingredient dexamethasone is given to people who have developed as a result of a coronavirus and who need mechanical ventilation.

Severely ill people are usually also given a blood-thinning medication to prevent thromboses (blood clots). They are kept under observation in the intensive care unit.

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IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on May 11, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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