Viral Fever: Symptoms, Causes, Types and Complications

Dr. Shashidhar B

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shashidhar B

General Physician

7 min read

Key Takeaways

  • It is a fever brought upon when the body is infected by a virus.
  • Viral fevers dehydrate the body and keeping fluids levels in check is key to recovery.
  • Whether it is a viral fever in kids or adults, the best approach is to be proactive to help with recovery.

It is quite common to fall sick when there’s a change in the weather or when you are in a new environment. Normally, when infected, the typical response of your body is to develop a fever to fight the infection, which is any temperature higher than 98F or 37C. So, this begs the question, ‘What is viral fever?’. Simply put, it is a fever brought upon when the body is infected by a virus. Depending on the virus and severity, the degree of the fever varies and this is why it is important to be aware of viral infection symptoms as they arise.

Given how common it is to fall ill with a viral fever, it is well worth it to know all you can about it to help curb its effects. To that end, here’s a breakdown of viral fevers, right from its causes and early warning signs to symptoms, treatment, and prevention tips.

What is Viral Fever?

By understanding what viral fever is, you can deal with its occurrence in a better and more holistic manner. If your body temperature crosses beyond 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal body temperature is called a fever. When your body is fighting a virus or bacteria, it is common to get a fever. If this fever occurs due to any viral infection, it is known as viral fever. This term includes a range of symptoms that, include.

  • Frequent headaches
  • Burning in the eyes
  • Vomiting
  • General weakness in the body 
  • High fever

Now that you are familiar with what viral fever is, it is essential for you to know about viral fever symptoms and the reason for it occurs.

How Does Viral Fever Occur?

Viral infections are communicable and are easily transmitted from one person to another. When the infected individual sneezes, talks, or coughs, small fluid droplets are released into the air. In case a healthy individual comes in close contact with these droplets, the person contracts the viral infection. 

After the virus enters your bloodstream, it takes approximately 16 to 48 hours for you to show viral fever symptoms. After this period, the infection gets severe and results in viral fever. The sudden increase in temperature is an indication of your immune mechanism fighting the pathogen. 

Viral Fever Symptoms

While the most common symptom is a fever, the best way to identify a viral infection is if it is accompanied by other symptoms as well. However, with the fever alone you can determine the severity of the infection as the body can record a temperature range between 99F up to 103F. Besides this, here are the other viral fever symptoms to keep an eye out for.

  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration

These are general symptoms of a viral infection and should stop when you start treatment for recovery. However, if left untreated, these can further evolve and cause the following.

Viral Fever Early Symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Convulsion
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficult breathing
  • Stiff neck

If a patient faces any of these serious symptoms, it is vital that medical care is administered immediately.

Viral Fever Causes

As mentioned, a viral fever is caused when the body is infected by a virus. Viruses are infectious agents and they multiply within the cells of your body. Many viruses are susceptible to sudden shifts in temperature and a fever does exactly that. However, this isn’t always the case as not every person presents with a fever when infected. A fever is the body’s way of fighting off the infection and is typically the first sign that indicates treatment may be necessary.

Additionally, there are many ways in which a virus can infect your body. Here are few common vulnerabilities to take note of.

1. Carriers

Animals and insects can be carriers of a virus and their bite can leave you infected. Common infections that are transmitted this way are rabies and dengue fever.

2. Ingestion

Drink and food that you consume can be contaminated by a virus and as a result, you may get infected. Norovirus and enteroviruses are common examples of infection transmitted through ingestion.

3. Inhalation

Viruses can also be transmitted in an environment that is contaminated. For instance, if an infected person sneezes next to you, you are likely to breathe in virus-laden droplets that are sure to cause infection. This is how viral infections like the flu or common cold are transmitted.

4. Bodily fluids

Exchanging bodily fluids with a carrier is also another way to get infected by a virus. HIV and Hepatitis B are common examples of infections you can get via bodily fluids.

Additional Read: HIV/AIDS Symptoms

Viral Fever Treatment

Generally, treatment for viral fevers is based on the severity and type of infection. Viruses don’t respond to antibiotics, which is why there is no specific viral fever medicine. This is what makes such infections deadly and the reason why doctors typically target the symptoms experienced by the patient.

Here are some common treatments for viral fevers.

1. Over Counter Fever Medication

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are medications you can use to reduce the fever.

2. Lukewarm Bath

The goal here is to reduce the body temperature as much as possible without stressing the body.

3. Rehydration

Viral fevers dehydrate the body and keeping fluids levels in check is key to recovery. This is why electrolyte-rich solutions are best recommended for treatment.

An important pointer to note is that you should never self-medicate for a viral fever or infection. This may worsen the condition and cause irreversible damage to your body, particularly in the case of antibiotics for fever.

Types of Viral Fever

Doctors classify viral fever into different types based on the region in your body that it affects. Here are a few types of viral fever.

Respiratory Viral Fever

If the pathogen affects your respiratory tract, it is known as respiratory viral fever. A few infections affecting the lower or upper respiratory tract include bronchitis, cold, flu, adenovirus infection, polio, and measles. The most common viral fever symptoms you may experience in this type include

  • Body ache
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Fever

Gastrointestinal Viral Disease

If the virus attacks your digestive tract, it causes gastrointestinal viral infections. The contagious pathogen causes a condition called stomach flu. These viruses are excreted through the stool during bowel movements. A few examples of gastrointestinal viral fever include rotavirus infection, norovirus disease, and astrovirus infections.

Hemorrhagic Viral Fever

In certain situations, the virus can cause life-threatening infections like internal bleeding. This type of fever is caused by hemorrhagic viruses, which can increase your body temperature drastically. This viral fever affects your blood platelets and vessels and may cause internal bleeding. A few examples of this viral fever include yellow fever and dengue.

Exanthematous Viral Fever

This viral fever type causes skin rashes and includes examples such as smallpox, rubella, measles, chickenpox, and chikungunya. A few exanthematous viruses are highly contagious and form small eruptions on the skin, like measles and chicken pox. While some viruses spread through droplets, a few others get transmitted through the fluids from broken lesions. 

Neurologic Viral Fever

This occurs when the virus attacks the central nervous system and causes neurologic viral fever. A few examples include rabies, HIV, and encephalitis. Some of the common symptoms of this viral fever include

  • Difficulty in coordinating
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Sudden seizures

Viral Fever Complications

Typically, viral fever lasts for a week or ten days. If your viral fever treatment is delayed, it may cause many serious complications. One of the main complications is pneumonia, which makes it easy for the virus to attack your respiratory system. Another viral fever complication is laryngitis, in which your larynx becomes narrow and swollen. Laryngitis causes breathing problems. 

If viral fever treatment is not provided on time, it can cause life-threatening conditions like cardiac arrest. Apart from these, here are a few other complications of viral fever.

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Liver and kidney failure
  • Multiple organ failure
  • Blood infections
  • Respiratory fever

Viral Fever Prevention Tips

Preventing infection, especially via a virus, is something you should prioritise as it can adversely affect your health for a long period of time. To prevent it, here are some practices you can put into play to give you the best chance of remaining healthy.

  • Maintain personal hygiene and avoid infectious environments
  • Get annual vaccinations for the flu
  • Do not share personal belongings like handkerchiefs with others
  • Sanitise or clean yourself thoroughly after a visit to any medical care centre

Whether it is a viral fever in kids or adults, the best approach is to be proactive to help with recovery. This means staying hydrated, monitoring body temperature, and keeping the fever in check. In addition to that, it also helps to zero in on the cause of the fever, for which a diagnosis from a general physician is your best bet. To make the process of availing healthcare a lot simpler and find the right doctors easily in your vicinity, be sure to use the healthcare platform provided by Bajaj Finserv Health.

This simple and easy digital platform gives you access to a suite of healthcare features and benefits. You can book appointments at nearby doctor clinics online, track your vitals in real-time, and even opt for virtual consults if a physical visit isn’t possible. What’s more, you can also maintain digital patient records and share them with doctors digitally for optimal viral fever care. It's time to begin your journey towards a healthier lifestyle!

Published on 23 Nov 2020Last updated on 6 Oct 2022

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

Dr. Shashidhar B

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shashidhar B

, MBBS 1 Karnataka Institute Of Medical Sciences Hubli, PG Diploma in Sexual Medicine 2 , Diploma in Reproductive Medicine (Germany) 2 , DNB - General Medicine 3 , FNB - Reproductive Medicine 6


Health Videos

Mobile Frame
Download our app

Download the Bajaj Health App

Stay Up-to-date with Health Trends. Read latest blogs on health and wellness. Know More!

Get the link to download the app

Google PlayApp store