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Viral Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is 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 on shared items.

What are the signs and symptoms of viral syndrome?

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

How is viral syndrome diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Antibiotics are not given for a viral infection. The following may help you feel better:

  • 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.
  • 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 relieve congestion in your sinuses.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Do not drink liquids with caffeine. 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 increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
  • Drink warm tea with 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.

What can I do to prevent the spread of germs?

  • Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use soap and water. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers, for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs. Turn your face away and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw the tissue away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Then wash your hands well with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Stay home while you are sick. Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Get the influenza (flu) vaccine as soon as recommended each year. The flu vaccine is available starting in September or October. Ask your healthcare provider about the pneumonia vaccine. This vaccine is usually recommended every 5 years in older adults.

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

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

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I call my doctor?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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