Viral Illness

What is it?

  • Simply put, it is an illness caused by a virus.
  • A virus is a very small organism that invades and takes over the cells in a suitable environment such as the respiratory system.
  • As our cell dies from this takeover, it spills new viruses into our system that then invade other cells. Each virus usually infects 1 specific type of cell.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Symptoms can vary depending on what that particular virus is attracted to. Generally, symptoms of “viral illness” refer to
    • Fever, can be up to 101°
    • Body aches
    • Cough
    • Congestion
    • Chills
    • Headache
  • Not all symptoms are always present.
  • There may be other symptoms.
  • Some viruses may have more severe symptoms than others.


  • Most common viral illnesses are diagnosed by symptoms.
  • Diagnosis is sometimes based on what is being seen in the community such as “flu” during flu season.


  • There is no “cure”. Treatment is aimed at alleviating symptoms.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink extra fluids. You can get dehydrated quickly if you have a fever and don’t drink enough fluids.
  • Since symptoms may vary, the treatment may vary between episodes and between people.
  • Most of the time, over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol or Advil, cough syrup, and decongestants, etc. are appropriate.

When to seek medical care

  • If you have an underlying medical problem such as asthma, diabetes or other conditions that weaken your immune system.
  • If you are not improving in 2 – 3 days.
  • If you are not able to get fluids down.
  • If your fever goes above 102°

Difference between a virus and bacteria

Virus Bacteria
Once they are in your body, they invade the cells and reproduce. This provides more viruses to invade more cells. Once they are in your body they produce toxins that can damage the cells they have invaded.
Not all viruses are contagious. Not all bacteria are contagious.
Antibiotics don’t work. Some can be treated with antiviral medication. But this is specific for each virus and most do not have medicines that will work. Can be treated with antibiotics.