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4 Ways to Identify Signs of Viral Infection

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

Symptoms of Common Respiratory Infections

Most common viral infections, including colds, infect the respiratory tract and generally cause a similar set of symptoms. You may experience some or all of the following if you catch a viral respiratory tract infection: headache, fever, malaise, sore throat, sneezing, coughing and a runny nose.

If your signs and symptoms seem unusually severe, visit your doctor to make sure you're not affected by a more serious condition. Otherwise, you'll be limited to supportive care for your treatment options, as viral infections cannot be cured by any medical treatment.

Got a Stomach Bug?

Just as the symptoms of viral respiratory tract infections cause symptoms that primarily affect the throat, nose and mouth, common stomach viruses wreak havoc on your intestinal tract. Some of the symptoms you might identify include abdominal pain, chills, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and changes in the consistency of your stools.

Check the Color of Your Mucus

As an informal means of identifying a viral infection, you can check the color of your mucus. While this is by no means an absolutely reliable way of diagnosing a medical condition, it can help you distinguish whether your symptoms are caused by a virus or by bacteria. In general if you're suffering from a common viral infection, your mucus will be thicker and whiter than normal. Bacterial infections usually make your mucus turn green or yellow. However, there are exceptions. If you have a common cold, for example, your mucus may be tinged with green or yellow because bodily fluids get mixed in with it in your respiratory tract. To be sure, you can visit your doctor to get a blood test to determine what type of antibodies your immune system is producing to ward off the intruder. That's the only sure way to know whether you have a virus.

Signs of Systemic Viral Infections

There are literally thousands of different viruses that might make you sick, with many of them affecting internal organs. Systemic viral infections may include symptoms like fatigue, malaise, swelling or tenderness of the affected organ and localized pain. The exact nature of your symptoms will differ, depending on the cause of your infection, but if you start taking antibiotics and your symptoms don't improve, you probably have a virus. Plenty of fluids and rest are the most reliable treatments.

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