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How to Identify Signs of Viral Infection

By Darlene Zagata ; Updated July 27, 2017

A viral infection is caused by a virus. Most people have had a virus at one time or another. A viral infection can produce a multitude of different symptoms. A viral infection cannot be cured with antibiotics. Bacterial infections do respond to antibiotics. A bacterial infection is typically characterized by pain, swelling and redness but it can often be difficult to distinguish between a bacterial and viral infection. Learn to identify the symptoms of a viral infection.

Check your temperature. A fever is one of the first signs that your body has been invaded by a viral infection. Fever occurs as a result of the body's own defense system. The body temperature rises in an attempt to rid the body of the infection. Fever alone cannot be used to identify a viral infection since a fever can also occur with a bacterial infection which is why it is important to identify other symptoms as well.

Notice if diarrhea and/or vomiting are present. These are typical signs that a viral infection has invaded the gastrointestinal tract. It is important to replenish fluids when diarrhea and/or vomiting are present to prevent dehydration.

Observe whether a cough is present and if there is congestion. These are symptoms that often accompany a viral infection but determination of the presence of a viral infection should not be based on these signs alone as they often accompany other infections as well.

Notice whether a runny nose or sore throat are present. Such symptoms usually occur when infection is present. There may be a thick nasal discharge and swollen glands in the neck often accompany a sore throat.

Notice if headache and/or body aches are present. Muscle aches as well as headache often accompany a viral infection. Headache may occur with other conditions as well.

Keep in mind that one of these symptoms alone does not necessarily signify the presence of a viral infection. It is also important to note that a viral infection may produce a variety of various symptoms. A combination of the symptoms mentioned would most likely indicate a viral infection. At times it may be difficult even for a physician to differentiate between a viral and bacterial infection. Laboratory tests may be necessary to confirm a proper diagnosis. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above it is likely that you have an viral infection. See your physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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