Viral Fever

Viral fever is one of the most common causes of ill health. Most of the people tend to neglect it and go on about their day-to-day activities after taking a pain killer or some medicines for fever. Could that be dangerous? Should we pay more attention to it? In this post, we tell you more about it.

A viral infection is a disease that can be caused by different kinds of viruses, of which the influenza-virus is best known. A viral infection can be in different places in the body, some viruses are mainly in the intestine, while others prefer the lungs and airways. With a viral infection you usually have a fever, but other complaints can range from abdominal pain and diarrhea to coughing and shortness of breath.

Viral fever is an acute viral infection. The most common viral fever is the seasonal flu. Children can catch viral fever easily.

The virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread by physical contact through hands infected with the virus for example.

When viral infections are very common, such as during seasonal changes, they can be carried through air ventilation systems.

Children can be contagious for about 10 days after they start showing symptoms of viral fever though some of the symptoms can continue for up to two weeks. Children younger than two are most at risk of developing complications of viral fever. Complications can include pneumonia which can be very serious.

So it's important to treat viral fever early, to prevent it from getting worse.

What are symptoms of viral infection?

Usually, the first signs of viral fever are chills. Another early sign is a fever of 100 to 103 degree F. A child with viral fever will often have pain throughout the body, especially in the back and legs. There are many different kinds of viral infections and the symptoms will probably vary depending on which virus your baby catches. He may have one or more of these symptoms:

  • cough
  • cold
  • sore throat
  • runny or congested nose
  • headaches
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • tummy pain

Protect from viral fever?

  • If your child is between six months and two years old, you may be able to give him an annual vaccination against the flu. Ask your doctor about it. This will help protect your child against some of the most common viruses and prevent any complications.
  • Try to keep your child away from anyone who is sick.
  • If anyone around your child is coughing or sneezing, ask them to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue, and to wash their hands with soap regularly. If a family member or household help has diarrhoea or vomiting, make sure they also wash their hands frequently and follow good hygiene habits.
  • Wash your and your child's hands with soap often, to prevent getting the virus.
  • Viral infections are most common during seasonal changes so be extra careful during those times of the year.

Offer enough drinks
Your child will be losing a lot of liquid through the fever, diarrhoea, vomiting or cold. If you're still breastfeeding, let your baby breastfeed as often as he wishes. You can also ask at your clinic for Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS). This solution will give your little one all the nutrients he has lost. You can give it to your baby even if he's just breastfeeding.

Special food
If your child is older than 6 months, offer him soft, runny food, such as soups, dals and curd with sugar. As he gets stronger, you can add thicker foods, like mashed vegetables, khichdi or porridge. Read more on what to feed a child down with cough and fever.

Take your child to the clinic. The doctor may give you zinc tablets and ORS if your little one has diarrhoea. He may also give you special pain relief, to lower your child's fever.

Rest at home
Let your child rest quietly in a separate room at home. He should rest while he has the virus, and for at least a week afterwards. This will help him fight the illness and get stronger. It will also prevent him from infecting other family members and children in the house.

Lower the fever
If your child has a high fever, you can sponge his body over with lukewarm water. This will refresh him and help bring down his temperature.

Wash your hands
Make sure you wash your hands before and after you touch your child. This will help to prevent the infection from spreading to other family members.

If your child still seems unwell, go to your doctor. Ask him if there are antiviral drugs that you could give your baby.

Air the house out
Open windows and doors to let fresh air in at least once a day. This will help remove any germs in the air. Keeping your house well-ventilated, dry and clean will also help prevent mould infestation. Read about what you can do to keep your home mould-free.

A viral fever is usually not serious, and should pass with the right treatment. But if your child has any of these signs, get him to the doctor straight away:

  • Coughing for more than three weeks
  • Diarrhoea for more than two weeks
  • Blood in stools
  • Fever for a week or more
  • Fits
  • Refusing to eat or drink anything
  • Constant vomiting
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Swelling of both feet

How are viral infections different from bacterial infections?

Both bacterial and viral infections can cause fever, chills and malaise. It may be difficult to differentiate between them.

A bacterial infection is characterised by redness, heat, swelling and pain in one part of the body. So, if your child has bacterial throat pain, he will have more pain on one side of the throat. Bacterial infections are usually treated with a special antibiotic, which only kills the bacterium that caused the disease.

Viral infections, however, involve different parts of the body at the same time. So, if your child has a viral infection, he may have a runny nose, a cough and body aches.

Antibiotics have no effect on viral infections like colds or the flu. Only use antibiotics for bacterial infections that won't get better on their own.

The treatment for viral infections usually includes drinking plenty of water and fluids, resting and taking pain relief and medicines to lower the fever.

Most viral infections, like the flu, have vaccines. They can give the body some help in quickly and effectively fighting the virus.

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