By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Viruses are present everywhere. Almost everyone gets affected with viruses. Having a fever due to a viral infection is common. Everyone has it now and then. Some people get affected with viral fevers more than 2-3 times every year. Whenever the weather changes from warm to cold or from cold to warm, viruses proliferate vigorously. This is due to the fact that moderate temperatures are most suitable for their growth. This is precisely why you will see many people suffering from cold, cough and fever during the change of season.
What is a virus
The word’virus’ is derived from a Latin word. It means a poison or a noxious substance. Viruses are very small sized infectious agents. In fact, they are smaller than the bacteria. Viruses multiply only inside the living cells of other organisms. They can infect every living organism including humans, animals, plants and even bacteria. There are thousands of viruses. In fact, it has been estimated that the total number of viruses could be more than 300,000. If one were to include the various strains of each virus, the number could run into millions. Viruses seem to be omnipresent.
Spread of viral infections
Viruses cause a lot of infections. The infection could be of the respiratory system, nervous system, digestive system, urinary system, liver or the skin. Viruses are highly infectious. Viral infections can spread from one human to another very quickly. This may happen due to contact with an infected human. For example, a person with viral cold can touch his nose and then shake hands with you. Many viruses spread through the air. When one sneezes or coughs, one releases a lot of viruses into the air. Any person within a short distance can get affected. Also, some viruses are spread through body fluids eg HIV spreads through sexual contact. In some cases, some insects or animals can spread viral infections as happens in case of dengue which is spread by a mosquito and rabies which is spread by an infected dog.
What is fever
The normal body temperature is about 98.6 F. This is the average temperature and may vary at different times of the day and weather. Also, some people may have a different normal body temperature. Whenever an infection occurs in the body, the immunity tries to fight off the infection. One way of fighting the infection is to raise the temperature of the body. Viruses and bactertia cannot survive high temperature. That is why the high temperature of the body is helpful in fighting off any infection. It is a natural defense mechanism of the body against any infection. Ideally speaking, it should not be meddled with as it helps to fight off the infection. It is only when the temperature goes quite high and can itself become the source of some trouble that it should be reduced artificially. In adults, a temperature of 103 F or above is considered worrisome. In infants and children, one needs to be more careful as their bodies are not fully developed and high fever can even damage their brain. Therefore any fever above 100 F is taken seriously.
What is viral fever
Viral fever is a fever which is caused by any virus. In common parlance, the word viral fever is used when there is no major disease like dengue, chikengunya or rheumatic fever. Viral fever is quite infectious. One often contracts viral fever after being in contact with an infected person. This may occur through physical contact like shaking hands or through the air when one coughs, yawns or sneezes. Any infection has some prodromal period. It takes time for the viruses to proliferate once they have entered the body. It can take a day to three days for you to develop fever after catching an infection.
Symptoms of viral fever
The symptoms of viral fever are almost similar to any other fever. Initially, one feels a sense of fatigue or tiredness. This may be present a day before the onset of the actual fever. Aches in the muscles or the body may also be present at this stage. Once the fever starts, one often has high grade fever. This means that fever may be above 102F. One often has running nose or cold along with fever. A dry cough may also be present. Chilliness and shivering is often seen. Bodyaches like pain in the legs, arms, head and back can also be present. Sore throat and skin rash may also occur. There may be swelling of the lymph glands in the neck. All these symptoms may or may not be seen in each individual patient but by and large these are the symptoms that are seen.
Diagnosis of viral fever
The diagnosis of viral fever is mostly clinical. This means that one cannot see much evidence in the laboratory investigations of the presence of any virus. The diagnosis is based on the presence of the various symptoms of the viral feve. There is lack of evidence of any bacterial infection in any lab test. WBCs are normally raised in any bacterial infection but in case of viral infections, this does not happen. There may be some increase in the number of lymphocytes. ESR may also be slightly raised. But the diagnosis is mainly based on the symptoms of the viral fever. Any experienced doctor can easily differentiate between a viral fever and a bacterial fever.
Prevention of viral fever
Viral fever spreads almost like an epidemic. You will suddenly see so many of your friends or colleagues down with viral fever. At such times, it may be difficult for one to completely prevent oneself from getting caught. Even then, some precautions can be quite helpful.
- Avoid shaking hands with an infected person.
- Do not use towels or handkerchiefs of an infected family member.
- Wash your hands with soap if you have any doubt of contacting any infected thing
- Avoid crowded places during times of mini epidemics
- Carry your own water and do not share food or other eatables
Abuse of antibiotics for viral fever
It is often seen that antibiotics are used to treat viral fevers. Often this occurs due to self medication done by people. At times, even doctors are guilty of prescribing antibiotics even after they know fully well that the fever is not of bacterial origin. This is totally useless and rather harmful. WHO and all other medical bodies all over the world have been routinely advising against the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. In case of a viral fever, it is a virus which is the offending organism. How can a medicine which is meant to kill bacteria be effective against a virus? This fact is known to all doctors. But still they keep on prescribing antibiotics, sometimes simply to please the patient that some treatment is being accorded to him or her. This is unpardonable. This only leads to drug resistance. More and more bacteria are becoming resistant to drugs because of indiscriminate use of antibiotics.
According to WHO -“The problem is so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine. A post-antibiotic era—in which common infections and minor injuries can kill—far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the twenty-first century.”
Homeopathy cures viral fever quickly
I see hundreds of cases of viral fever every season. I have always been successful in curing viral fever in a matter of a day or two. Homeopathy is so effective at treating viral fevers that a patient gets better within two days. The added advantage of homeopathy is that there is no remnant of weakness or lethargy after the viral fever is cured. Homeopathic medicines like Arsenic, Nux Vomica, Belladonna, Rhus Tox, Ferrum Phos are most commonly used and give almost magical results.