What is viral fever ?
» In medical terms, any fever caused as a result of viral infection is a viral
fever. However, colloquially, the term 'viral fever' has come to mean a
special type of fever that develops and then gets treated without the offending
virus being specifically identified. The course and duration of the fever too
does not seem to follow any set pattern and is frequently accompanied by, though
not always by all of them, generalised bodyache, running nose, cough, shivering,
feeling miserable, irritable and depressed.
How long do they last ?|
Normally between 3 to 7 days with the former being termed as the 'three
day fever' and the latter as the 'seven day fever'.
What are the symptoms?
Once the virus enters the body, there is
an incubation period when the virus multiplies to a level high
enough to cause infection. This is followed by a phase of
fatigue and body and muscle aches that may lead to the onset
of fever. The fever may be low grade or high grade.
Inflammation of the throat, a running nose, nasal congestion,
headache, redness of the eyes, cough, muscle and joint pains
and a skin rash could be present. Fatigue and body pain could
be disproportionate to the level of fever, and lymph glands in
the neck may swell up. The illness is usually self-limited but
the fatigue and cough may persist for a few weeks. Sometimes
pneumonia, vomiting and diarrhoea, jaundice or arthritis
(joint swelling) may complicate the initial viral fever. Some
viral fevers are spread by insects, for example, arbovirus,
and can cause a bleeding tendency, which results in bleeding
from the skin and several other internal organs and can be
>>How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis and management of viral
fevers is based on the clinical presentation rather than on
laboratory investigations. The diagnosis is made by the
typical history of fever with severe muscle and joint pains.
Skin rash and lymph gland swellings have to be specifically
looked for. Laboratory investigations are undertaken to rule
out other bacterial infections rather than to confirm viral
fever. Blood tests will not show any increase in the white
blood cells, which typically occurs with bacterial infections.
The numbers of lymphocytes may be increased. The erythrocyte
sedimentation rate (ESR) may be elevated. Confirmation of the
fever is done by a culture of virus from the relevant
specimens such as nasal swabs, and skin rash or by increase in
antibody levels in serial blood samples.
>>What medicines should one take ?
This must be decided by your medical doctor. Therefore, the doctor should be
consulted without delay and his advice followed diligently. However, it is
noteworthy at this point the famous saying 'a viral fever usually gets
treated in 7 days with medications and in a week without any'. But
without prejudice, please consult your doctor as a matter of routine!
Normally, treatment is given for specific complaints like fever, headache,
running nose, cough, etc.
>>What are the precautions that one must take ?
Remember that any viral fever causes the body immune system to be severely
tested. Therefore, the more danger arises as a consequence of having the viral
infection than from the specific infection itself. Cough is usually not a good
sign and chest infections caused by bacteria (like pneumonia) are quite common -
especially in the young and old. Therefore, your doctor would normally prescribe
some antibiotics which strictly are not indicated in viral fevers and they are
known to cause more harm than good unless absolutely indicated.
>>How can one avoid getting these infections ?
Frankly, there is very little chance of avoiding these. Though several
vaccines have been developed and successfully tested, particularly in the USA
where these infections, when they have occurred have lead to severe epidemics
and fatalities, largely the causative viral strains are unknown and having them
once does not guarantee any immunity from further infections, especially in the
sub-continent. The best methods to be followed are staying away from persons who
are sneezing and coughing, particularly during season-change and having a sound
body constitution helps. Try not to use tissue papers and handkerchiefs of the
suffers and dispose or wash them as hygienically as possible.
>>Are any preventive measures available ?
As has been entailed above, some shots are indeed available, especially for
influenza. Unfortunately, since many a times one really does not know what
causes the fever in the first place and the disease is cured before any
confirmed diagnosis as to the cause can first be made, and also since the
offending virus more often than not mutates into a new variety against which
there are no effective vaccines are available. Therefore, it is not always easy
to take immunisation shots beforehand and be free from getting a viral
Do consult your doctor for further guidance and advice in this