How are viral diseases treated?

Treatment of viral infections varies depending on the specific virus and other factors. General treatment measures are aimed at relieving your symptoms so that you can get the rest you need to keep up your strength and recover without developing complications.

General treatments for viral infections include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for fever, body aches, and pain

  • Drinking extra fluids

  • Getting extra rest and sleep

  • Maintaining good nutrition

Depending on the type of viral infection and the presence of complications, a wide variety of other treatments may be needed. For example, a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that leads to cervical dysplasia can be treated by surgical removal of the abnormal cells on a woman’s cervix.   

In general, it is recommended that children younger than age six not use cold or cough medications because of the risk for serious side effects. In addition, people with a viral disease should not use aspirin or products that contain aspirin because of the risk of developing a rare but life-threatening condition called Reye syndrome. Reye syndrome has been linked to taking aspirin during a viral illness, such as a cold or the flu.

Prescription medications used to treat viral diseases

In some cases, certain medications may be prescribed to treat viral diseases:

  • Antiretroviral medications, which can help people with HIV/AIDS lead longer lives. Antiretroviral medications hinder the ability of HIV to reproduce, which slows the spread of HIV in the body.

  • Antiviral drugs, which minimize the severity and length of some viral infections, such as the flu and shingles, especially in people who are at a high risk for serious complications. For example, the drugs oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza) may be prescribed for some cases of flu. These drugs are not appropriate for all people with the flu.

Antibiotics, which are not prescribed for viral diseases because they are ineffective in the treatment of viral infections, may be prescribed if a person with a viral disease develops a secondary bacterial infection, such as bacterial pneumonia, bacterial bronchitis, or encephalitis.

Complementary treatments

Complementary and traditional treatments will not cure a viral disease but may help to increase comfort, promote rest, and minimize symptoms of viral diseases. Some possible treatments include:

  • Chicken soup to help break up congestion and provide easy-to-digest nutrients and extra fluids to help keep up strength

  • Supplements or products that contain vitamin C, echinacea, or zinc

  • Using a vaporizer

  • Using mentholated ointments on the chest

What are the possible complications of viral diseases?

In some people, viral diseases can break down the body’s defenses and lead to more serious infections and life-threatening complications. Therefore, it is important to visit your health care provider when you have symptoms of a viral infection. Once the underlying infection has been determined, following the treatment plan outlined by your health care provider can help reduce any potential complications including:

  • Acute bronchitis

  • Cervical cancer (from human papillomavirus infection)

  • Dehydration

  • Frequent life-threatening, opportunistic infections

  • Otitis media (ear infection)

  • Pneumonia

  • Secondary bacterial infection

  • Seizures

  • Shock and coma

  • Sinusitis

  • Worsening of asthma


  1. Chickenpox. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Genital HPV Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Respiratory Syncytial Virus. PubMed Health.
  4. Viral Gastroenteritis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Common Cold. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


What are viral diseases?

Viral diseases are extremely widespread infections caused by viruses, a type of microorganism. There are many types of viruses that cause a wide variety of viral diseases. The most common type of viral disease is the common cold, which is caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). Other common viral diseases include:

  • Chickenpox
    Read more about viral diseasesintroduction


What are the symptoms of viral diseases?

Symptoms of viral diseases vary depending on the specific type of virus causing infection, the area of the body that is infected, the age and health history of the patient, and other factors. The symptoms of viral diseases can affect almost any area of the body or body system. Symptoms of viral diseases can include:


What causes viral diseases?

Viral infections occur when a virus enters the body and invades the inside of the body’s cells in order to reproduce. If the body’s immune system is unable to fight off the virus, it multiplies and spreads to other cells, repeating the process and leading to a widespread infection.

Types of viruses

There are many types of viruses that cause a wide variety of viral infec... Read more about viral diseasescauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 11, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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