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Viral Syndrome


Viral syndrome

is a term used for symptoms of an infection caused by a virus. Viruses are spread easily from person to person through the air and on shared items.

Signs and symptoms

may start slowly or suddenly and last hours to days. They can be mild to severe and can change over days or hours. You may have any of the following:

  • Fever and chills
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough, sore throat, or hoarseness
  • Headache, or pain and pressure around your eyes
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone else call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You cannot be woken.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a stiff neck, a bad headache, and sensitivity to light.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or confused.
  • You stop urinating or urinate a lot less than usual.
  • You cough up blood or thick yellow or green mucus.
  • You have severe abdominal pain or your abdomen is larger than usual.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment or get worse after 3 days.
  • You have a rash or ear pain.
  • You have burning when you urinate.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for viral syndrome

may include medicines to manage your symptoms. Antibiotics are not given for a viral infection. You may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Cold medicine helps decrease swelling, control a cough, and relieve chest or nasal congestion.
  • Saline nasal spray helps decrease nasal congestion.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Drink liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Ask if you should drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar you need to replace body fluids. This may help prevent dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhea. Do not drink liquids with caffeine. Liquids with caffeine can make dehydration worse.
  • Get plenty of rest to help your body heal. Take naps throughout the day. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work and your normal activities.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to help you breathe easier. Ask your healthcare provider how to use a cool mist humidifier.
  • Eat honey or use cough drops for a sore throat. Cough drops are available without a doctor's order. Follow directions for taking cough drops.
  • Do not smoke or be close to anyone who is smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Smoking can also delay healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Prevent the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Stay away from others while you are sick. Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. Talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccine history. He or she will tell you which vaccines you need, and when to get them.
    • Get the influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as recommended each year. The flu vaccine is available starting in September or October. Flu viruses change, so it is important to get a flu vaccine every year.
    • Get the pneumonia vaccine if recommended. This vaccine is usually recommended every 5 years. Your provider will tell you when to get this vaccine, if needed.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Viral Syndrome (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.