Viral infections are very common, and most viral infections don’t require emergency care. However, in some cases, certain viruses and the emergence of specific symptoms may require quick medical care. It’s important to be aware of common types of viral infections, how they are treated, and when you need to seek emergency care from a local emergency room.
Common Types of Viral Infections
Viral infections can cause multiple symptoms and may cause nearly anything, including the common cold or even AIDS. Here’s a look at some of the most common viral infections people encounter.
- Common Cold – The common cold is the most common type of viral infection and may be caused by various viruses. In most cases, colds are caused by a coronavirus, rhinovirus, or an adenovirus. Common symptoms include runny eyes, congestion, itching eyes, throat or nose, cough, fever, fatigue, and headache.
- Influenza (Flu) – Influenza is a virus that can cause the flu, and there are several different strains of the flu virus. Although the flu isn’t serious for all individuals, many people are hospitalized and some die from the flu each year. Common symptoms of the flu include chills and a fever, general aches and pains, fatigue, congestion, coughing, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and headache.
- Bronchitis – Although chemicals or bacteria may cause bronchitis, viral bronchitis is the most common. It’s often a complication of the flu and the common cold. Symptoms of bronchitis include low fever, wheezing, dry cough, chest tightness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
- Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) – The stomach flu, often caused by the norovirus or the rotavirus, is quite common. It generally causes unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, and dehydration.
Other viral infections and diseases include:
- Human papillomavirus
- Viral hepatitis
- Viral pneumonia
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS)
- Measles, mumps, and rubella
- Viral meningitis
- Zika Virus
Treating Viral Infections
Prevention is one of the best ways to avoid viral infections, since vaccines are available for many viral diseases, including influenza. While antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, they have no effect on viruses. Antiviral medications are available and may be prescribed in some cases to treat a viral infection. Depending on the symptoms that come with the infection, medications may be prescribed to treat the symptoms as well. It’s important to find the root cause of an infection before deciding on treatment, which can be done by taking a patient history, assessing symptoms, and using other diagnostic tools, such as flu tests or other labs.
When to Seek Emergency Care
In most cases, viral infections like the common cold and influenza can be treated at home. However, these infections have the potential to lead to serious, potentially life-threatening complications in some individuals, such as secondary bacterial infections and dehydration. Individuals with a weakened immune system, those with a chronic disease, the very old, and the very young have a higher risk for complications. Seek medical care if you think you may have a viral infection. If you have serious symptoms of an illness, such as an extremely high fever, changes in consciousness or alertness, shortness of breath, fainting, or passing out, seek immediate emergency medical care from Pinnacle ER.