Viral respiratory infections are spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets containing infectious agents into the air. The droplets in the air may be breathed in by those nearby. The viruses are also spread by direct contact with a sick person or indirect contact with hands, tissues or other articles soiled by nose and throat discharges.
Enterovirus and adenovirus infections are also spread through contamination of hands or objects with infected faeces.
Signs And Symptoms
Signs and symptoms vary depending on the particular virus causing the illness. Most respiratory viruses cause cold-like symptoms or flu-like illnesses.
Common signs and symptoms include:
malaise (feeling unwell).
Most people improve within a few days.
Sometimes illness can result in complications. Types of complications depend on the particular virus but may include:
pneumonia (lung infection or inflammation)
bronchiolitis (inflammation of small air passages in the lungs)
meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Laboratory tests are not always necessary; however, the infection can be confirmed by laboratory testing of mucus from the back of the nose or throat.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
Usually 1 to 10 days, varies with the specific virus
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
The infectious period varies widely and depends on the specific virus. However, usually viral respiratory infections are usually most contagious during the first few days of symptoms. In some cases, people with an infection can shed (or release) the virus (and so remain infectious) for some time after they have recovered from the infection.
No specific treatment is required for mild viral respiratory infections. Most people recover with rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Paracetamol may be used for relief of symptoms but must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age unless specifically recommended by a doctor.
Antiviral medication may be used for severe or prolonged viral respiratory infections such as influenza virus infection. Antibiotics do not help even though they are often prescribed.
When To Seek Medical Advice
Seek medical advice if you are concerned about your symptoms or have any of the following:
shortness of breath
inability to keep liquids down because of vomiting
symptoms of dehydration (such as being dizzy when standing or passing much less urine than normal).
Viral respiratory infections can be prevented by the following measures:
If unwell with a viral respiratory infection, try to stay away from childcare, preschool, school and work until well.
Wash hands as soon as possible after sneezing or coughing and after contact with nose and throat discharges or articles soiled by these. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
Cover a cough or sneeze with tissue or arm. Dispose of used tissues immediately and wash hands afterwards.
Wipe down all frequently touched surfaces regularly with a cleaning cloth dampened with detergent, or with a large alcohol wipe.
Avoid sharing cups, glasses and eating utensils with people who have respiratory infections.
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.