Viral Infection in Children: Reasons, Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Viral Infection in Kids

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
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Children often fall prey to viral infections. Studies show that during his early growing years, a child can be a victim of about 12 viral ailments in a year. Children often become the target of a virus immediately after recovering from another virus. However, the incidence of children catching a viral infection generally decreases as they grow up.

Viruses are contagious and may spread easily through personal contact. A lot of viruses are not dangerous, and taking adequate rest is usually the best way to treat them. Antibiotics may not help cure a viral infection. Nonetheless, if a child suffering from a viral infection shows no improvement in 48 hours, it is advisable to seek medical treatment.

Video : Viral Infection in Children Signs and Remedies

What Is a Viral Infection?

An infection produced by viruses or tiny germs in the body is called a viral infection. There are a plethora of viruses that can infect nearly any part of the body. They function like hijackers by attacking the healthy cells and then using the infected cells to grow and breed more viruses.

Viruses are responsible for the occurrence of common viral infections like flu, common cold along with a sore throat, diarrhoea, vomiting, and warts. They can also trigger severe infections like smallpox, Ebola, and HIV/AIDS.

Causes of Viral Infection in Kids

A child can easily catch a viral infection from an infected child at school or any other public place, as the virus can spread from a runny nose, virus-infected hands, or even a cough or sneeze. Germs may also get transferred through faeces, vomit, and insect bites. Viral infections can affect kids through contaminated food and water. Viral infections commonly occur during seasonal changes. Viruses usually get passed on either horizontally from one infected person to another, or vertically from a mom to her kid.

Common Diseases Caused by Viruses

Some of the common diseases caused by viruses are listed below:

Signs and Symptoms of a Viral Infection in a Child

The symptoms can differ depending on the type of viral infection. The most common signs and symptoms of a viral infection in a child can be:

  • A runny or blocked nose
  • A sore throat
  • Watery red eyes
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Fever and chills


  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Rashes that blanch upon pressing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Body ache


If the symptoms of viral infection show no signs of subsiding after a few days, it is always advisable to contact your doctor. The doctor, in that case, may recommend some blood tests to ascertain which virus is producing the infection. Only then can the doctor propose the right course of treatment.

Treatment for a Child’s Viral Infection

The treatment for a child’s viral infection usually involves the management of the symptoms of viral infection. The doctor may prescribe ORS and zinc tablets, in case of diarrhoea and ibuprofen for relief from pain and high fever. If the child has a cough and cold, the doctor may advise cough syrup and nasal drops.

However, viruses can be prevented in the first place by proper vaccination. They can be treated by antiviral drugs as well. But usually, the best treatment for a viral infection is adequate rest, intake of sufficient fluids, and allowing the infection to run its natural course.

Home Remedies to Cure a Viral Infection in Your Child

Some of the home remedies that can prove useful in curing a viral infection in your child are:

  • Make sure that your kid takes in plenty of fluids. Drinking water at regular intervals will not only soothe a sore throat but also help prevent dehydration, which can be a result of diarrhoea, vomiting, or fever.
  • It is essential that your child takes adequate rest. This way his immune system might be able to fight the virus
  • If the child is experiencing difficulty in consuming solids, try feeding him liquids like clear soups, broths, natural fruit juices, etc.
  • Using saline nasal drops may prove useful in clearing up a blocked nose. A child with an unblocked nose can eat with considerable ease.
  • A mix of honey and ginger juice can bring substantial relief.
  • Black pepper powder mixed with honey can provide relief from a cough.
  • Steaming or gargling with warm water can help soothe a sore throat and blocked nose.
  • Use of a humidifier in the room can also prove useful.

How Long Does a Viral Infection Last in Kids?

A viral infection in a kid can last for a couple of weeks, even though he may make a recovery within a few days. There is usually a time lag of a few days between getting infected by the virus and the appearance of the symptoms. A cough may linger on for quite some time. Sometimes, kids develop rashes due to the viral infection, which usually disappears on their own in a few days.

What to Expect When Your Child Has a Viral Infection

When your child has a viral infection, you can expect the following things:

  • If your child has developed a cough, it is likely to linger on for a couple of weeks.
  • If your child has a history of asthma, then the viral infection can cause a bout of asthma.
  • In some cases, kids may have breathing troubles and can suffer from wheezing.
  • Sometimes, kids develop rashes, which may result in itchiness.
  • A kid suffering from a viral infection can experience a loss of appetite.

Dangerous Signs to Watch Out For

Usually, a viral infection is not a cause for concern. However, it may result in serious complications. Therefore, if your kid shows any of the following signs, you should contact your doctor immediately.

  • If he has a cough for several weeks
  • Severe diarrhoea
  • Fever for a few days or more
  • Convulsions
  • Continued loss of appetite
  • Blood in stools
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Breathing troubles
  • Extreme lethargy

How Does Your Child’s Body Fight Against Viruses?

A child with good immunity can successfully fight against viruses. A strong immune system can create a physical barrier and prevent viruses from passing through the body. The white blood cells or leukocytes hunt for the germs that may have entered the kid’s body to destroy them. The child’s immune system also produces antibodies that identify viruses in the body and neutralise them, thereby preventing infections.

How to Prevent Your Child From Getting a Viral Infection

Here is a list of things that can be done to prevent your child from getting a viral infection:

  • Ensure that your child is properly vaccinated.
  • If a family member is affected by a viral infection, make sure your kid avoids any physical contact with that person.
  • It helps to practice proper hygiene habits around the house like using a tissue while sneezing or coughing, frequent washing of hands with soap to prevent spreading of germs.
  • Changing seasons are a time when viral infections are more likely to occur. Thus, you need to take extra precautions during this period.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy and balanced meals to boost his immunity.

Tips to Help Your Child When He Has a Viral Infection

Certain tips that may help your child when he has a viral infection are:

  • Keep your child suitably hydrated by giving him plenty of fluids. In case he is suffering from acute diarrhoea, your doctor may recommend ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts).
  • If your child is running a high fever, you may sponge his body all over to provide relief.
  • Your child may find eating runny food like dals, soups, and light food like khichdi, porridge, or mashed vegetables easier.
  • Make sure that your child rests as much as possible. The more he sleeps, the sooner he will get better.
  • It is better to keep your child in a separate room so that other family members may not get infected. Also, separate his cutlery and towels.
  • You can limit the extent of the infection by washing your hands properly with soap while caring for your child.
  • Airing your house by opening the windows/doors to let fresh air come in might useful in removing germs and further spreading the infection.

Difference Between a Viral Infection and a Bacterial Infection

A viral illness in children is produced by viruses, whereas bacteria trigger a bacterial infection. A bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotic drugs that destroy only the bacterium that has caused the infection. However, antibiotics are ineffective in curing a viral infection in toddlers. A bacterial infection may manifest itself in a specific infected part of the body in the form of swelling, ache, redness. Therefore, if a kid is suffering from a bacterial sore throat, he may experience pain in his throat.

On the other hand, viral infection in kids can include several parts of the body being infected at a given time. Thus, if a kid has a viral infection, he may develop a cough, runny nose, body ache, and watery eyes. Recurrent viral infections in children might be a sign of a weak immune system. Viral infection in children that results in a high fever needs to be looked at by a doctor immediately, as it may result in complications like pneumonia.

It might be challenging to protect your child from getting affected by a virus. However, you can always build and strengthen your child’s immune system to reduce the possibilities of him falling prey to viral infections. Maintaining a balanced diet for your kid can go a long way developing effective resistance to all the viral infections.

Also Read:

Eye Infections in Babies
Breastfeeding A Baby With Fever or Cold

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