VIRAL INFECTIONS SIGNS AND SYMPTOMSOnce the virus has infiltrated the body and attached itself to a cell, the virus then causes an illness. The immune system kicks into high gear, which increases white blood cells and produces fevers. Viruses typically only attack a single area of the body. A virus in the upper respiratory tract can lead to a common cold or a respiratory infection. A virus in the bloodstream can cause fevers, fatigue, and weakness. A virus that attacks the immune system, can lead to fatigue, fevers, and opens the body up to additional diseases. Viral infections can range from the common cold, which requires little to no treatment, to HIV, which requires constant treatment and may very well terminate life.
VIRAL INFECTIONS CAUSESViral infections are caused by the virus. The virus enters the body through swallowing, inhalation, infected food, transfer from human to human contact, or transfer from insect bites. The instant the virus has entered the body, the immune system immediately tries to rid the alien particle from the system. Sometimes the immune system wins and sometimes the virus begins to attach itself to an available cell.
Image: Viral Infections
Those with a lowered immune system are more likely to pick up viral infections. Viral infections are more prominent in cold weather due to the higher concentration of people in enclosed areas. It is easier to pick up a viral infection form other people when people are confined in indoor environments for longer periods of time.
VIRAL INFECTIONS DIAGNOSISDiagnosing a viral infection can be as simple as listening to the patient’s symptoms. The flu is caused by a virus, and most people are aware when they have contracted the flu virus. Some viral infections are harder to detect, and they require blood or urine tests to determine whether or not an infection is caused by a virus. Viral infections on the skin can often be determined by visual inspection, although in some cases skin scrapings or blood work may be necessary.
VIRAL INFECTIONS COMPLICATIONSComplications from a viral infection can be severe if not treated promptly and correctly. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to viral infection complications, and even a case of the flu can be deadly. Most viruses are eventually killed by the immune system, thus those with a compromised immune system may have great difficulty when a virus attacks the body. Immunodeficient victims may experience severe illness, long term illness, hospitalization, and even death.
VIRAL INFECTIONS TREATMENTTreatment options for viral infection depend on the type of virus, the patient’s overall condition, and the age and affected area of the patient. Anti-viral medication can help the body’s immune system fight off the virus, however some anti-viral medications need to be administered within a fairly short window of time in order to be effective. Anti-viral medications for the flu work best if they are administered within 24 hours of initially contracting the flu virus. After 48 hours, the medication becomes nearly useless in assisting the body’s natural defenses except in the elderly or the immunodeficient patient. Viruses which affect the skin may require more aggressive action, such as freezing. Warts which are caused by a virus do not typically respond well to anti-viral medications. Warts which are caused by a virus often need to be frozen in order to be treated effectively. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics and treating a viral infection with antibiotics is likely to do more harm than good. Otherwise healthy patients are not likely to be treated for a viral infection unless there is cause for concern.
Viral infections can make the patient feel weak and tired. Fluids, rest, fever reducers, and sometimes pain medications are helpful in returning the patient to a nominal level of comfort while their body works to ward off the virus and the infection which it has caused.
Viral infections in small children can be more difficult to deal with simply because children tend to be cranky when they are ill. Soothing their symptoms as they arise can help them cope with the illness. Adults who contract viral infections should listen to their body. Sleeping as needed and drinking ample fluids can help the body fight off the viral infection faster. Viral infections should be diagnosed by a physician. It is not uncommon to mistake a bacterial infection for a viral infection, as well as determine which viral infections require anti-viral medication and which viral infections will simply clear up on their own.