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Managing Illness at Home

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Viral infections commonly cause respiratory and digestive illnesses. They are more common during the fall and winter seasons but are present all year round. These viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics and can often be managed at home.

The more common viruses are:

Stylised cartoon depiction of a viral particle with various surface protein spikes

  • Rhinovirus (common cold) 
  • Influenza (flu) 
  • COVID-19 
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) 
  • Gastroenteritis (Stomach Bug) 

The following chart may help you manage your symptoms at home and help you understand when it is time to see a doctor. 

Understanding Viruses and How to Manage Them

  Virus

Common Symptoms

Level of Infectivity

Managing Your Symptoms at Home

  When to See a Doctor

Common Cold

Stuffy nose
Sore throat
Sneezing
Cough
Low-grade Fever

Less contagious

Drink plenty of fluids

Rest and reduce activities

Take pain medications: acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or body aches

Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash your hands often

Stay away from others to keep from infecting them

Wear a mask when around others

Viral symptoms should be managed at home

Flu

Body aches
Chills
Cough
Fatigue
Fever
Headache
Sore throat
Stuffy nose

Contagious

Difficulty breathing (gasping for air, shortness of breath, wheezing or trouble taking a breath in)

Severe or worsening cough

Dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea

A fever that lasts more than 72 hours

You have underlying heath problems (like heart or lung disease) or take immunosuppressants

COVID-19

Body aches
Chills
Fever
Fatigue
Cough
Diarrhea
Nausea/ Vomiting
Shortness of breath
Loss of smell/taste
Headache
Stuffy nose
Sore throat

More contagious

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Runny nose
Sneezing
Cough
Fever
Wheezing

Very Contagious

Keep your child comfortable

Offer plenty of fluids

Give ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever

*DO NOT give over the counter cough and cold medicines for children under 6 years old

Take your child to the emergency if:

-your baby is under 3 months and has a fever

- your child has trouble breathing

- your child has lips that look blue

- your child is no longer able to suck or drink

Take your child to see a doctor if your child:

- has had a fever for more than 72 hours

- is not having wet diapers

Gastroenteritis in Adults

Nausea
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Stomach pain or cramps

Contagious

Drink plenty of fluids

You may not feel hungry (this is okay!)

Rest and reduce activities

Take Gravol for nausea/ vomiting

Good handwashing

You have a fever

You have severe stomach pain

You have blood in your stool/ diarrhea

You are not unable to keep fluids down for 24 hours

You are not urinating

Your symptoms are not improving after 48 hours

Gastroenteritis in Babies or Children

Nausea
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Stomach pain or cramps

Contagious

Keep your child comfortable

Offer plenty of fluids

Good handwashing

Your child has a fever

Your child seems tired or very irritable

Your child is in a lot of discomfort or pain

Your child has bloody diarrhea

Your child seems dehydrated


Additional Resources