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Viral Syndrome in Children


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. Your child may have a fever, muscle aches, or vomiting. Other symptoms include a cough, chest congestion, or nasal congestion (stuffy nose). Antibiotics are not given for a viral infection. An illness caused by a virus usually goes away in 10 to 14 days without treatment.


Call 911 for the following:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or is breathing very fast.
  • Your child's lips, tongue, or nails, are blue.
  • Your child is leaning forward and drooling.
  • Your child cannot be woken.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child complains of a stiff neck and a bad headache.
  • Your child has a dry mouth, cracked lips, cries without tears, or is dizzy.
  • Your child's soft spot on his or her head is sunken in or bulging out.
  • Your child coughs up blood or thick yellow, or green, mucus.
  • Your child is very weak or confused.
  • Your child stops urinating or urinates a lot less than normal.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain or his or her abdomen is larger than normal.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever for more than 3 days.
  • Your child's symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • Your child's appetite is poor or your baby has poor feeding.
  • Your child has a rash, ear pain, or a sore throat.
  • Your child has pain when he or she urinates.
  • Your child is irritable and fussy, and you cannot calm him or her down.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much medicine to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

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

Care for your child at home:

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to help your child breathe easier if he or she has nasal or chest congestion.
  • Give saline nose drops to your baby if he or she has nasal congestion. Place a few saline drops into each nostril. Gently insert a suction bulb to remove the mucus.
  • Give your child plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Examples include water, ice pops, flavored gelatin, and broth. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her. You may need to give your child an oral electrolyte solution if he or she is vomiting or has diarrhea. Do not give your child liquids with caffeine. Liquids with caffeine can make dehydration worse.
  • Have your child rest. Rest may help your child feel better faster. Have your child take several naps throughout the day.
  • Have your child wash his or her hands frequently. Wash your baby's or young child's hands for him or her. This will help prevent the spread of germs to others. Use soap and water. Use gel hand cleaner when soap and water are not available.
  • Check your child's temperature as directed. This will help you monitor your child's condition. Ask your child's healthcare provider how often to check his or her temperature.

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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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Viral Syndrome in Children (Aftercare Instructions)

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