Viral Syndrome (Adult)

A viral illness may cause many symptoms such as fever. Other symptoms depend on the part of the body that the virus affects. If it settles in your nose, throat, and lungs, it may cause cough, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, headache, earache and other ear symptoms, or shortness of breath. If it settles in your stomach and intestinal tract, it may cause nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. Sometimes it causes generalized symptoms like aching all over, feeling tired, loss of energy, or loss of appetite.

A viral illness often lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. But sometimes it lasts longer. In some cases, a more serious infection can look like a viral syndrome in the first few days of the illness. You may need another exam and additional tests to know the difference. Watch for the warning signs listed below for when to get medical advice.

Home care

Follow these guidelines for taking care of yourself at home:

  • If symptoms are severe, rest at home for the first 2 to 3 days.

  • Stay away from cigarette smoke - both your smoke and the smoke from others.

  • You may use over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, muscle aching, and headache, unless another medicine was prescribed for this. Antibiotics aren't used to treat viral infections. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. No one who is younger than 18 and ill with a fever should take aspirin. It may cause severe disease or death.

  • Your appetite may be poor, so a light diet is fine. Prevent dehydration by drinking 8 to 12, 8-ounce glasses of fluids each day. This may include water; orange juice; lemonade; apple, grape, and cranberry juice; clear fruit drinks; electrolyte replacement and sports drinks; and decaffeinated teas and coffee. If you've been diagnosed with a kidney disease, ask your healthcare provider how much and what types of fluids you should drink to prevent dehydration. If you have kidney disease, drinking too much fluid can cause it build up in your body and be dangerous to your health.

  • Over-the-counter remedies won't shorten the length of the illness. But they may be helpful for symptoms such as cough, sore throat, nasal and sinus congestion, or diarrhea. Don't use decongestants if you have high blood pressure.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider if you don't get better over the next week.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Convulsion

  • Feeling weak, dizzy, or like you are going to faint

  • Chest pain, or more than mild shortness of breath

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Cough with lots of colored sputum (mucus) or blood in your sputum

  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing

  • Severe headache; face, neck, or ear pain

  • Severe, constant pain in the lower right side of your belly (abdominal)

  • Continued vomiting (can’t keep liquids down)

  • Frequent diarrhea (more than 5 times a day), or blood (red or black color) or mucus in diarrhea

  • Feeling weak, dizzy, or like you are going to faint

  • Extreme thirst

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

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