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Viral Syndrome [Adult]

A viral illness may cause a number of symptoms. The symptoms depend on the part of the body that the virus affects. If it settles in the nose/throat/lungs, it may cause cough, sore throat, congestion and sometimes headache. If it settles in the stomach and intestinal tract, it may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes, it causes vague symptoms like "aching all over," feeling tired, loss of appetite, or fever.

A viral illness usually lasts from 1-2 weeks and sometimes longer. In some cases, a more serious infection can look like a viral syndrome in the first few days of the illness. Repeat exams and further tests are needed to know the difference. Therefore, it is important to watch for the warning signs listed below.

Home Care:

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

  • Stay away from cigarette smoke (yours or other peoples’).

  • You may use Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for fever, muscle aching and headache, unless another medicine was prescribed for this. [ NOTE : If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.] (Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.)

  • Your appetite may be poor, so a light diet is fine. Avoid dehydration by drinking 8-12 eight-ounce glasses of fluids per day. This may include water, orange juice and lemonade, apple, grape and cranberry juice, clear fruit drinks, electrolyte replacement and sports drinks, decaffeinated teas and coffee.

  • Over-the-counter remedies will not shorten the length of the illness but may be helpful for the following symptoms: cough (Robitussin DM); sore throat (Chloraseptic lozenges or spray); nasal and sinus congestion (Actifed or Sudafed). [NOTE: Do not use decongestants if you have high blood pressure.].

Follow Up

with your doctor as advised if you do not improve over the next week.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

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

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

  • Severe headache; face, neck or ear pain

  • Severe constant right-sided lower abdominal pain

  • Continued vomiting (can’t keep liquids down)

  • Frequent diarrhea (more than 5 times a day); 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) oral or higher, not better with fever medication

  • Convulsion