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Sars (severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a condition caused by a virus that damages the air sacs of the lungs. The lung tissues become inflamed and scarred. The damaged air sacs do not allow oxygen to get into your bloodstream, which may cause respiratory failure. Respiratory failure means you cannot breathe well enough to get oxygen to the cells of your body. The SARS virus is related to other viruses that cause common colds and diarrhea. It may be found in saliva, sputum, or discharge from the nose of an infected person.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


Keep the head of your bed raised to help you breathe easier. You can also raise your head and shoulders up on pillows or rest in a reclining chair. If you feel short of breath, let caregivers know right away.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

A pulse oximeter

is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.

Isolation safety measures

may be used if you have an infection that can be passed from person to person. Healthcare providers and visitors may need to wear gloves, a face mask, or a gown. Visitors should wash their hands before leaving to keep from spreading germs.


  • Antivirals help treat or prevent a viral infection.
  • Bronchodilators: You may need bronchodilators to help open the air passages in your lungs, and help you breathe more easily.
  • Antipyretics: This medicine is given to decrease a fever.
  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may help to open your air passages so you can breathe easier.


  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.


  • Breathing treatments: You may need breathing treatments to help open your airway so you can breathe easier. A machine may be used to help you breathe in medicine.
  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.


SARS is a serious, life-threatening disease, and treatment should not be delayed. If not treated early, the SARS virus may badly damage your lungs and cause further breathing problems. SARS may lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia causes the lungs to become swollen and filled with fluid. Fluid in the lungs causes severe shortness of breath and may lead to respiratory failure. Respiratory failure means you cannot breathe well enough to get oxygen to the cells of your body. This may affect your heart and brain and be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.