Viral fever/Common cold is a short duration, seasonal and self limiting illness caused by viruses. There are more than thousand kinds of viruses in the environment. It spreads from one person to other person. As mentioned earlier, it is self limiting i.e. a child recovers by himself after a short illness. A child of 2 to 8 years generally gets 6-8 episodes of viral fever in a year.

How to distinguish Viral Fever from significant fevers (non viral illness)

a) Viral fever generally starts as high grade continuous fever and the intensity of fever goes down with time. The time between 2 fever spikes also increases with time/day. (Fever is maximum at onset and nearly throughout on day one and then breaks as 2-3 spikes/day).

b) Fever generally lasts for 3-5 days.

c) Child will be active and playful in between fever spikes.

d) Fever is generally associated with running nose, cold and cough. (Headache and body ache in older children)

e) Particularly in kids it is also associated with mild tummy pain on onset.

Myths and Facts associated with Viral Fever

Myth - It is caused by cold weather/ getting wet in rain/ eating ice-cream or cold drink.

Fact - It is a viral illness caused by virus which spreads from one person to other mainly by the spread of virus while coughing, sneezing or talking. Cold weather/ getting wet in rain/ eating ice-cream or cold drink neither causes nor aggravates viral illness.

Myth -Antibiotics are required/ helps in early recovery in viral illness.

Fact -  Antibiotics have no role in viral illnesses. They are short duration illness and all kids recover by themselves in 3-5 days.

Myth - Blood tests are required in case viral fever.

Fact - There is no need for any blood test in case of viral fever. In some situations there can be supra-added bacterial infections. In those cases blood test and antibiotics both are required.

What Parents should do?

1. Viral fevers are common. Normal frequency of viral fever is 6-8 episodes/ year for kids and 2-3 episodes for adults. So parents should not worry much.

2. Viral fever leads to increased fluid loss from body, so increase fluid intake of your kid. Soup, Juices, glucose water, normal water, milk everything can be given. Give enough fluid so that your kid passes urine once in every 4-6 hour.

3. Viral fever causes some irritation in throat. Cold water and ice cream help in reducing that irritation as cold items decreases sensation in throat. You can safely give cold water, ice cream and other cold drinks to your kid if he is not taking any other fluid orally.

4. Crocin/Paracetamol should be given for fever. You can bathe your kid with tap water (not cold water) if fever does not go down with medicine. Fever can cause seizure / fits in children up to 5 years of age. So fever should be controlled as advised by your doctor.

5. Medicines for cough/cold can be given. Honey has proven beneficial role in post viral cough. 1 spoon of honey, two times a day can safely be given for kids more than 1 year of age.

6. Vicks / oil massage has no proven role in kids and should be avoided.

7. Visit your pediatrician and follow his instructions.

8.  As it spreads from one person to other, avoid going to crowded places when viral illness are prevalent (ie monsoon season and early winter season). Wash your and your kid's hand frequently and always before eating. If your kid is suffering from viral fever then it is advisable not to send him school and other gathering. This will prevent spread of illness to others.  

Wishing all kids speedy recovery