Sore throat and diarrhea


What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?

Colds and influenza (flu) are both viral respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Both of these illnesses can have similar symptoms and at first it can be difficult to tell the difference.

While neither virus is pleasant to catch, the flu can be much more severe than a cold and lead to potentially life-threatening complications, so it’s important to know what to do when you are sick and how to limit the virus from spreading to others.

In general, the symptoms of influenza are more severe and last longer than those of a cold. The symptoms of flu can include fever (or feeling feverish/having chills), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches and pains, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Although some adults will also experience vomiting and diarrhoea these symptoms are more common in children.

See the table below for a breakdown of cold and flu symptoms. Keep in mind that symptoms and their severity may vary with age and health status.

Symptoms Flu Cold
Runny nose or nasal congestion Rare Common
Sneezing Rare Common
Sore throat Common Common
Fever Common
Temperatures between 38°C and 40°C
Sudden onset
Cough Common
Sudden onset
Mild or moderate
Headache Common
Sometimes intense
Aches and pains Common
Sometimes intense
Fatigue Common
Duration: a few days, sometimes longer
Nausea and vomiting Common in children
Rare in adults
Often accompanied by diarrhoea and abdominal pain in children

Treatment for colds and flu

Antibiotics don’t work against a cold or flu because they target bacteria rather than viruses.

Instead, you can treat yourself at home by:

  • getting plenty of rest and sleep (this means staying home from work or school)
  • drinking plenty of fluids (particularly water)
  • and if you have a sore throat, eating soft foods that are easy to swallow.

If you don’t experience any complications, or have high risk factors for complications, treatment of the flu requires no prescription medication. Over-the-counter medication is available to help relieve headaches, muscles aches and fever, and while these won’t cure your illness, they may make you feel more comfortable.

In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine to reduce the duration and severity of your symptoms. This type of medication is most effective when taken at the onset of an infection.

See your doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) if you have a cough and high fever (38°C or more) that is not improving, trouble breathing, chest pain, or if you have any other concerns about your symptoms.

Stop the spread

If you have the flu, it’s really important that you take steps to minimise your risk of spreading the virus to others, especially those who are high risk of serious complications from influenza. People at high risk include the elderly, young children, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with existing medical conditions such as heart or lung diseases and diabetes.

Follow the steps below to reduce the risk of spreading flu or cold viruses:

  • get vaccinated
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away immediately after use, or cover a cough or sneeze with your elbow
  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you sneeze, blow your nose or cough
  • wash your hands before handling food or drinks
  • and stay at home as soon as you notice symptoms of the flu.

Unless otherwise advised by a doctor, home is the best place to be while you have the flu or a cold. By staying at home, you limit contact with other people and reduce transmission of the virus.

You can greatly reduce your risk of contracting the flu by getting a flu vaccination each year.

Find more information about influenza from Queensland Health influenza factsheet.

The Common Cold & Diarrhea: Are They Connected?

Diarrhea and a cold are fairly common occurrences, and many people may find that the two illnesses occur together. While they might seem unrelated, they could be connected in more ways than you would expect.

Are the Common Cold and Diarrhea Connected?

If you’re experiencing a common cold and diarrhea together, there could be a connection. Certain groups of microorganisms (these are the bad guys often to blame for our illnesses) are known to cause both respiratory and gastrointestinal (GI) issues, of which diarrhea is a common symptom. Often times for these more common and less severe illnesses, such as the common cold and upset stomach, doctors will not test to discover what microorganism has infiltrated your system as the treatment plan is almost always identical: at-home support, time, and rest.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications could also be the culprit of your diarrhea, especially cough suppressants or anything containing fructose. Additionally, some ingredients in OTC medications for the common cold can cause irritation in sensitive individuals, which can lead to diarrhea.

Diarrhea – The Body’s Defense Mechanism

The consensus is that the body attempts to protect itself from harmful microorganisms through various routes. For example, a fever boosts the body’s immune response and the eyes water to flush something that may cause harm. Diarrhea plays a similar role – during a bout of diarrhea, your body is trying to rid the gut of a potentially harmful intruder.

Research has found that upon introduction of harmful microorganisms to the gut, the lining of the intestinal wall becomes more permeable to let in extra water to flush the invaders out, which causes loose stools and diarrhea in most cases. As a result, taking medications to suppress diarrhea might be counterproductive to speedy and proper healing.

How to Support Diarrhea and the Common Cold

With any case of diarrhea, staying well hydrated with water is essential. Other helpful liquids to consider include unsweetened coconut water, broths, and a homemade or store-bought electrolyte replenishers. Additionally, as soon as you experience diarrhea symptoms, consider taking DiaResQ, a food for special dietary use that provides beneficial nutrients that support your body’s natural immune response and help to relieve diarrhea and restore normal intestinal function.

If your child has diarrhea and symptoms of a cold and is refusing to eat, know that this is often the body’s normal reaction, try easy to digest foods like applesauce or bananas and continue to encourage adequate hydration. Whether diarrhea is connected to the common cold or not, following these supportive measures will help you to feel better as quickly as possible.

You Have a Cold. Why Does Your Stomach Hurt?

Russell Cohen, MD, associate professor of medicine and co-director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said ingredients in some over-the-counter cold medications can cause an upset stomach. Here are some particularly troublesome side effects:

Guaifenesin. It helps relieve chest congestion and is an ingredient in dozens of cold medications, including Mucinex. It works by thinning mucus so it is easier to cough up. Medication side effects can include nausea, Dr. Cohen said.

Dextromethorphan. It helps relieve coughs from colds and flu. It’s an ingredient in many cold medications, including Robitussin Maximum Strength and Vicks Formula 44. Cohen said medication side effects can include constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain. Also remember that some cough suppressants with the sweeteners fructose and sorbitol can cause diarrhea.

Pseudoephedrine. It helps relieve nasal congestion and can be found in medications such as Sudafed. It can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea and can keep people awake, among other side effects, said Cohen.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). “NSAIDs like Advil and Motrin can cause a variety of problems,” said Puetz. In most cases, they cause constipation, but they also have been linked to microscopic colitis, which can cause diarrhea, he added. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is pretty well-tolerated in people who don’t have underlying liver disease.

To avoid unnecessary side effects of a cold medication, Cohen suggests steering clear of a multisymptom medication if you don’t have all the symptoms it addresses. For example, if the medicine has a cough suppressant in it but you don’t have a cough, don’t use it. “Choose a product that only has in it what you need,” he said.

Nondrug cold remedies could help your symptoms. Using a humidifier at night may help calm a cough. A neti pot can help irrigate and clear nasal congestion.

What to Eat and Drink When Fighting a Cold

Drinking plenty of fluids is important in recovering from a cold, said Puetz. But the type of fluid can make a big difference, as certain beverages can trigger IBS. Soda, apple juice, and grape juice contain sugars that can increase gas and cause diarrhea, he said. Water is a safe bet.

Be careful about what you eat too. “Often people will resort to comfort foods such as bread or pasta, but these starch-containing foods produce gas and can make bloating worse,” said Puetz, who recommends rice as a good substitute. He added that in general, if you have digestive issues, steer clear of IBS triggers. While only you know your unique triggers, common ones include fatty foods, high-fructose foods such as onions, pears, and sweetened drinks, foods with sorbitol (apples, grapes, diet gum), and dairy products.

“The old remedy of chicken soup and rest would be an ideal choice,” said Puetz. Pickle agreed that rest is perhaps the best medicine: “Know your limits based on your IBS under normal conditions and slow down — allow your body more time to rest and fight the cold.”

Nobody likes diarrhea. But is the icky and uncomfortable experience actually the body’s way of flushing bad stuff out of your system?

In a new study in mice, researchers set out to answer the question of whether diarrhea is simply a symptom of an illness or, instead, a way for the body to quickly get rid of germs.

In fact, diarrhea’s purpose — or lack thereof — has been the subject of much scientific debate.

“The hypothesis that diarrhea clears intestinal pathogens has been debated for centuries,” senior study author Dr. Jerrold Turner, a professor of pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. But the role that diarrhea plays in the progression of intestinal infections “remains poorly understood.”

In the new study, the researchers “sought to define the role of diarrhea and to see if preventing it might actually delay pathogen clearance and prolong disease,” Turner said. In other words, could using certain medicines to prevent diarrhea make an illness worse?

To study the role of diarrhea, the researchers infected mice with a bacterium called Citrobacter rodentium, which is the mouse equivalent of Escherichia coli and then studied what went on in the animals’ intestines. The researchers found that within two days of infection, the permeability of the walls of the mice’s intestines increased, meaning that more water and other molecules could flow into the intestines. (When a person or animal has diarrhea, the poop is very watery.)

Importantly, the researchers found that this increase in permeability happened before the walls of the intestines became inflamed and damaged by the infection, which suggests that this increased permeability helps to defend the gut, as opposed to being the result of gut damage. Indeed, the researchers also found that the influx of water into the intestine, and then out of the body in the form of feces, helped clear the germs out of the gut and ultimately limited the severity of the diarrhea.

Two molecules were involved in the changes that the researchers observed in the mice. One was interleukin-22, which is an immune molecule that signals cells to increase their levels of the other molecule, called claudin-2 has been shown in earlier studies of diarrhea to increase the permeability of the intestinal wall.

In fact, some researchers have proposed making drugs that could inhibit claudin-2 in order to help prevent diarrhea. But the new findings suggest that blocking this molecule could prolong an infection, the researchers wrote. Increased levels of this molecule and increased gut permeability “are essential to host defense,” they wrote.

Because the study was done in mice, more research is needed to confirm the results in humans.

The study was published on June 14 in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Originally published on Live Science.

Cold and flu: what to eat to help relieve specific symptoms

  • Foods for cold and flu symptoms
  • Fighting a fever with food
  • Help headaches with hydration
  • Cure a sore throat with plenty of fluid
  • Remedy a cough with honey and lemon tea
  • Drink if you’ve got diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting nutrition
  • Frequent meals when appetite is reduced
  • Stop a runny nose with chicken soup
  • Clear a blocked nose with hot drinks
  • Clear blocked sinuses with spicy foods
  • Swallowing is easier with soft foods
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements for cold and flu symptoms

Cold and flu- what to eat and drink

Cold and flu symptoms are unpleasant, but many symptoms can be relieved by eating and drinking certain foods and beverages. Eating and drinking are also important for preventing dehydration and weight loss which may occur during periods of cold and flu infection. The best combination of foods and drinks depends on the specific symptoms you are having, for example whether you’re coughing and feverish, or have a sore throat and a blocked nose.

Fighting a fever with food and fluids

Fever often accompanies a flu. While eating and drinking cannot cure a fever, consuming enough healthy foods and fluids to maintain hydration and minimising weight loss is important. If you have a cold or flu you may not feel like eating much, however your body is using more energy to fight the infection. Energy expenditure is particularly high when you have a fever. The amount of energy the body uses increases by 13% in adults for every 1oC increase in body temperature.

Drinking plenty of fluid is important during fever as the sweating that usually accompanies a fever increases water loss. Adults should drink eight 250ml cups of fluid per day. Children aged over one year need a minimum of 90-120ml of fluid per hour and babies require at least 30-60ml fluid per hour.

Help headaches with hydration

Dehydration can contribute to headaches. Maintaining adequate fluid intake is also important if you experience headaches during cold and flu infection.

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Cure a sore throat with plenty of fluid

Drinking plenty of fluids helps lubricate and relieve a sore throat and both food (as soups, smoothies etc) and drinks can be used as fluids.

Lozenges including sugar free medicated lozenges suitable for diabetics are available for temporarily relieving sore throats. Their consumption increases saliva production and lubricates the throat.Any type of hard candy will have a similar lubricating effect, although medicated lozenges may have additional benefits because they also contain local anaesthetic, antiseptic and/or counter-irritant ingredients.

Soft foods will be easier to swallow with a sore throat and some soft foods like hot soup may also help relieve this symptom.

Sore throats associated with post nasal drip (excessive mucus which runs from the nose to the throat) may also be associated with acid mucus. Drinking a teaspoon of liquid antacid may help. You should not drink anything for a short time after drinking the antacid, as the aim is to coat the throat with the antacid and neutralise the acid in the mucus. Drinking too soon after swallowing antacid will wash it away before it has time to neutralize the acid.

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Remedy a cough with honey and lemon tea

Maintaining adequate hydration by drinking plenty of fluids helps relieve a productive cough. Drinking at least eight 250ml glasses of water daily has the same benefit as using expectorant cough medicine (one which loosens mucus in the throat). Hot lemon and honey tea may relieve coughing. It’s a good option for night time coughing which disturbs your sleep.

Frequent meals when appetite is reduced

When you have a cold or flu your appetite is usually reduced. If you don’t feel like eating much, try smaller more frequent meals to ensure you eat enough to meet your nutritional requirements. This is particularly important during pregnancy. Soft food may be easier to swallow during cold and flu infection.

Stop a runny nose with chicken soup

When the nose produces more mucus as it does when you have a cold or flu, it increases water loss. Maintaining fluid intake is therefore important. Eating chicken soup, previously thought to be merely an old wives’ tale, has been shown to have a mild anti-inflammatory effect that helps to clear mucus from the nose.

Clear a blocked nose with hot drinks

Maintaining fluid intake helps to loosen mucus and relieve congestion. Drink water or other fluid whenever you are thirsty and use your thirst as a guide to how much you should drink. During cold and flu you should drink a minimum of eight 250ml cups of fluid each day.Hot beverages are ideal as the hot steam they produce can relieve congestion.Tea made from lemon and honey is a good option.

Chicken soup is a mild anti-inflammatory and also helps clear mucous from the nose and reduce congestion.Menthol sweets may also help relieve a blocked nose.

Many people believe that milk and dairy products increase congestion and should be avoided; however, this is not the case. Dairy products should not been withdrawn from the diet.

Clear blocked sinuses with spicy foods

Spicy foods may help relieve blocked sinuses. They include foods containing horseradish and hot peppers.

Drink if you’ve got diarrhoea

Diarrhoea increases water loss and drinking plenty of fluids is essential for preventing dehydration, particularly in children. Sip water frequently throughout the day. Adults may prefer to drink non-caffeinated soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juice or salty broths; beverages which contain sodium, potassium and chloride are good options, because these salts are also lost from the body with diarrhoea. Children should drink water or oral rehydration solution. Babies should continue breast or bottle feeding. Soft drinks and juice should be avoided in children as they can cause diarrhoea to worsen. Oral rehydration salts which are mixed with water replace fluid, salts, glucose and other important minerals and should be used if you or your child is dehydrated or at risk of becoming so.

If you experience diarrhoea during cold and flu infection eat when you feel you are able to. If you can’t tolerate any food, make sure you keep drinking plenty of fluid until you are able to eat. Small, light meals should be consumed, but there is no need to avoid solid food, except in children who are dehydrated. In these cases solid food should only be offered when the child has consumed enough fluid to ensure they are properly hydrated.

When you’re ready to eat again, start with bland foods, for example:

  • Plain rice
  • Boiled potatoes;
  • Plain toast;
  • Crackers;
  • Baked chicken with the skin and fat removed;
  • Vegetable broth;
  • Bananas.

Foods which may trigger diarrhoea should be avoided. These include:

  • Caffeinated beverages including coffee, tea and some soft drinks;
  • Fatty, greasy and/or fried foods;
  • High-fibre foods including citrus fruits;
  • Sugary foods like cakes and lollies.

Some people find it more difficult to digest lactose during periods of diarrhoea. If this applies to you avoid dairy products, with the exception of yoghurt which is usually tolerable. Yoghurts containing live bacterial cultures may reduce the duration of diarrhoea.

Relieve nausea and vomiting

Dry, bland foods are best if you are nauseous (dry toast or crackers are good food options) and solid foods should be avoided if you are vomiting. Fried, greasy and sweet foods should be avoided and hot and cold foods should not be eaten simultaneously. Nausea may be relieved by sucking ginger candy or drinking ginger ale. Cold, clear beverages are recommended for nausea. Sip them slowly.

Vomiting causes rapid water loss and fluid intake must be increased to avoid dehydration. Water, fruit juice, saltybroth, non-caffeinated soft drinks or oral rehydration solutions are good beverage options for adults. Beverages containing caffeine or alcohol should be avoided. Children should drink water or oral rehydration solution. Babies should continue breast or bottle feeding. Oral rehydration solutions should also be used by adults if vomiting persists for more than 24 hours. Sucking on ice cubes may also be useful if you have difficulty tolerating fluids.

You probably won’t feel like eating much if you are nauseous or vomiting. When you can eat, choose nutritious food from a variety of food groups to ensure you consume a range of nutrients. When you are able to tolerate food, begin by eating dry, bland foods like plain rice or toast, boiled potatoes, lean meat and bananas. Avoid fatty and sugary foods.

Swallowing may be easier with soft foods

Infections can cause narrowing of the food pipe and this may lead to dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). This condition sometimes occurs as a symptom of common cold. If you have dysphagia you may have difficulty swallowing or in severe cases you may be unable to swallow at all. Dysphagia may also make chewing food difficult. This makes eating and drinking enough challenging.

The types of foods which will be easiest to swallow vary depending on the person, for example some may find thin liquids easiest to swallow while another person may prefer thick liquids. Eat slowly and take small mouthfuls. Try swallowing each mouthful of food twice to avoid food that is not swallowed getting into the windpipe.

Vitamin and mineral supplements for cold and flu symptoms

The effectiveness of several vitamins and minerals including zinc, vitamin C and echinacea has been investigated for relieving cold symptoms, either by making the symptoms less severe or shortening their duration. However, the studies used vitamin and mineral supplements (e.g. zinc lozenges, vitamin C tablets) rather than foods containing these vitamins and minerals (because the large quantities of vitamins and minerals contained in supplements are very difficult to obtain from eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables).

Evidence for the effectiveness of vitamin and mineral supplements is limited. Zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of cold symptoms if you start taking them within 24 hours of your symptoms beginning. High doses of vitamin C may have a modest benefit for cold symptoms; however they may also produce side effects including diarrhoea, kidney stones and abdominal cramping. There is limited evidence that Echinacea is effective in relieving cold symptoms.

More information

For more information on the common cold and influenza, types of influenza and treatments and tips for preventing influenza, see Cold and Flu.

Sore Throat and Diarrhea

Sore Throat and Diarrhea Could Mean the Flu

Sore throat and diarrhea are two very different symptoms that could be a sign of a very common illnesses in the United States – influenza.

Influenza, or “the flu,” is an infectious disease that typically occurs in the fall and winter and is caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms of the flu may include sore throat and diarrhea, along with:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Aches
  • Dizziness
  • and more…

If you are experiencing sore throat and diarrhea, along with any of these symptoms, you could have the flu. A trip to your local FastMed could be in order. We provide you with a quick test that can determine if you have the flu in just 10 minutes and treatment to have you feeling better in no time.

Other Possibilities

If you don’t think you have the flu but your sore throat and diarrhea persist for more than a few days, you should still visit FastMed to rule out other possibilities. Although influenza is the most common cause of sore throat and diarrhea together, there are a large number of other conditions that could be to blame, like:

  • Bacterial diseases – Bacteria can get into our bodies in many different ways, including inhalation into the nose and lungs, through food, or from sexual contact. Different types of bacterial diseases can cause very different symptoms, including sore throat and diarrhea.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Chronic fatigue syndrome is a chronic pain disorder that causes severe fatigue as well as a variety of other symptoms, like sore throat, diarrhea, joint and muscle aches, tender lymph nodes, and more.
  • Food allergies – Food allergies can cause respiratory symptoms like sore throat and shortness of breath in addition to other symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Ebola – Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe disease that was largely limited to Africa until the first case was diagnosed in the United States in 2014. Ebola can cause symptoms such as high fever, sore throat, diarrhea, chest pain, and can even cause death.

For more questions about symptoms like sore throat and diarrhea, check out our online health resources center.

Does my child have the flu or a stomach bug?

If you have a child in daycare or school, they may come home with a sore throat, diarrhea, runny nose, vomiting, headache or all of the above. Is it the flu? Stomach bug?

Sometimes what we call the flu really is a stomach bug, and vice versa. How can you tell the difference?

“Many people use the term ‘flu’ to refer to a wide range of illnesses,” said Rachel Alexander, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton eCare. “With influenza, we tend to have more upper respiratory symptoms but can have stomach issues as well, making you feel very ill.”

Sore throat, fever?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It infects the nose, throat and sometimes lungs.

Symptoms of the flu can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

People with flu spread the virus through tiny droplets when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. The flu virus also can live on surfaces such as shopping carts and doorknobs.

Germs make their way into the body and can lead to illness when someone gets the virus on their hands, then touches their eyes or mouth.

Antiviral medication can treat flu symptoms. It is most effective if taken within the first 24 to 48 hours of flu symptoms and will help lessen the severity.

If your child has the flu and symptoms worsen, it may warrant immediate medical attention. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Norton eCare

If your child has symptoms of either virus, Norton eCare providers are available 24/7 to discuss and provide a treatment plan through an online video visit. Video visits are available for children ages 2 and older.

  • Get started

Diarrhea, throwing up?

Medically speaking, a gastrointestinal virus often is associated with norovirus and is not the same as the flu virus.
Symptoms of norovirus can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Throwing up
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Sometimes fever, headache and body aches

Symptoms usually develop 12 to 48 hours after exposure, and most people will experience the symptoms for one to four days.

Unfortunately, the only treatment for a norovirus stomach bug is supportive care that includes drinking plenty of fluids, eating a bland diet and resting. The virus has to run its course. If the virus lingers past four days or your child’s symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.

A common concern with both illnesses can be dehydration, so it’s important to drink lots of fluids.

“Fluid intake and rest are important with any virus,” Alexander said. “We recommend that you avoid caffeinated drinks, drinks high in sugar and dairy products if you are experiencing vomiting and diarrhea.”

If your child has symptoms of either virus, Norton eCare providers are available 24/7 to discuss and provide a treatment plan through an online video visit. Video visits are available for children ages 2 and older for a $40 fee.

Flu symptoms Nororvirus symptoms
Fever Diarrhea
Cough Throwing up
Sore throat Nausea
Runny or stuffy nose Stomach pain
Body aches Sometimes fever, headache and body aches
Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting



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What Are Adenoviruses?

Adenoviruses are a group of

that can infect the membranes (tissue linings) of the:

  • respiratory tract
  • eyes
  • intestines
  • urinary tract
  • nervous system

What Are Adenovirus Infections?

Adenoviruses are common causes of fever and illnesses such as:

  • colds
  • pinkeye
  • croup
  • bronchitis
  • pneumonia
  • diarrhea

Adenovirus (add-eh-noe-VY-rus) infections are usually mild, but serious infections can happen. Infants and people with weak immune systems are more likely to have severe problems. Some types of the virus are linked to more severe disease.

Who Gets Adenovirus Infections?

Adenovirus infections can affect children of any age. But they’re more common in babies and young children. Most kids have had at least one adenovirus infection before age 10. There are many different types of adenoviruses, so people can have more than one adenovirus infection.

Adenovirus infections can happen at any time of the year.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Adenovirus Infections?

The symptoms of adenoviral infections depend on the type of adenovirus and the part of the body affected. Respiratory symptoms are most common.

Upper respiratory infections can range from mild cold symptoms to flu-like symptoms. These include:

  • sore throat (pharyngitis)
  • a congested, runny nose (rhinitis)
  • a cough
  • ear infection
  • pinkeye
  • fever

Adenoviruses can also cause lower respiratory infections such as bronchiolitis, croup, or pneumonia. Adenovirus can cause a cough that sounds like whooping cough (pertussis).

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the stomach and intestines. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, belly pain, and fever.

Bladder infections: These can cause frequent peeing, burning, pain, and blood in the urine.

Eye infections:

  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is a mild inflammation of the membranes that cover the eye and inner surfaces of the eyelids. Symptoms include red eyes, discharge, tearing, and the feeling that there’s something in the eye.
  • Pharyngoconjunctival fever causes very red eyes, a sore throat, fever, runny nose, and swollen glands.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis is a more severe eye infection that involves both the conjunctiva and cornea (the transparent front part of the eye). It causes red eyes, photophobia (sensitivity to light), blurry vision, tearing, and pain.

Nervous system infections:

  • Meningitis and encephalitis can sometimes happen due to adenovirus infection. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, and confusion.

Is Adenovirus Contagious?

Adenovirus is highly contagious. Infections are common in close-contact settings, such as childcare centers, schools, hospitals, and summer camps.

Adenovirus can spread through droplets when someone with an infection coughs or sneezes. Fecal material (poop) can spread the infection via contaminated water, dirty diapers, and poor hand washing. Outbreaks of pharyngoconjunctival fever at summer camps are linked to contaminated water in swimming pools and lakes.

A child might also pick up the virus by touching someone who has it. Adenoviruses can survive on surfaces for a long time. So they can spread on contaminated toys, towels, and other objects.

Symptoms usually start 2 days to 2 weeks after contact with adenovirus.

How Are Adenovirus Infections Diagnosed?

The symptoms of adenovirus infections are similar to many other infections. If a person has a serious infection, doctors can test respiratory or conjunctival secretions, a stool sample, or a blood or urine sample to confirm the diagnosis.

Doctors will also test for adenovirus during suspected outbreaks. (An outbreak is when many people come down with the same symptoms.)

How Are Adenovirus Infections Treated?

Most adenovirus infections get better on their own. Treatment at home includes getting plenty of rest, drinking enough liquids, and using acetaminophen to treat fevers. Babies and children with vomiting and diarrhea who can’t drink enough liquids may need treatment for dehydration.

Infants (especially newborns and premature babies), people with weak immune systems, and healthy children and adults with severe adenovirus infections may need antiviral medicine and treatment in a hospital. Other treatment, depending on the symptoms, may include intravenous fluids, oxygen, and breathing treatments.

How Long Do Adenovirus Infections Last?

Most adenovirus infections last from a few days to a week or two. Severe infections may last longer and cause lingering symptoms, such as a cough.

Can Adenovirus Infections Be Prevented?

To help prevent the spread of adenovirus infections, parents and other caregivers should:

  • make sure kids and caregivers wash their hands well and often
  • keep shared surfaces (such as countertops and toys) clean
  • keep kids with infections out of group settings until symptoms are gone
  • teach kids to sneeze and cough into shirtsleeves or tissues — not their hands

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor if your child is sick and:

  • has a high fever or one that lasts more than a few days
  • has breathing problems
  • is under 3 months old or has a weak immune system
  • has red eyes, eye pain, or a change in vision
  • has severe diarrhea, vomiting, or signs of dehydration, such as peeing less or having fewer wet diapers, a dry mouth, sunken eyes, acting tired and listless

You know your child best. If he or she seems very ill, call your doctor right away.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD Date reviewed: October 2018

For additional perspectives relating to the topic, this article contains Clinical Commentaries from practicing pharmacists. To go directly to these commentaries, please click here or here.

Patients may find it difficult to distinguish between a cold and the flu, and pharmacists can help them determine if self-treatment is appropriate.

Having a cold or the flu is a familiar event for many of us. A cold usually comes on slowly, starting with a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and a sore throat. The flu often comes on quickly with extreme tiredness, fever, body aches, and a cough. Both usually last for 1 to 2 weeks. The symptoms are similar and difficult to tell apart. The flu is typically worse than a cold and more likely to cause complications that require prescription medications or hospitalization.

How Do I Know If It Is a Cold or the Flu?

The flu and the common cold are respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses. There are hundreds of cold viruses that can cause a cold any time of year. There are fewer flu viruses. The main 2 types are influenza A and B.

Although the flu is most common during flu season, which lasts from October to mid-May, it can happen any time of year. Unfortunately, the flu and a cold cannot be reliably told apart by either the symptoms or the time of year.

Clinical Commentary

What are 3 questions pharmacists should ask patients to decide if physician intervention is needed?
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When Should I See a Doctor?

Complications of the flu and a cold include strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. Signs of these complications include a persistent fever (greater than 101°F for more than 3-4 days in adults), painful swallowing, persistent coughing (lasting longer than 3 weeks), persistent congestion, and headaches (lasting longer than 1 week). People with chronic health problems, such as obesity, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, can have additional complications.

People at a high risk of developing complications should see their doctor if they have flu-like symptoms. Although there is no cure for the flu, a doctor can prescribe oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). These antiviral drugs can lessen the severity and shorten the duration of the flu, thus reducing the likelihood of complications. These drugs are most effective if taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms.

If complications are already present, the doctor can prescribe additional medications, such as antibiotics, or recommend hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the following groups as at high risk for developing complications:

• Children younger than 5 years, but especially children younger than 2 years

• Adults 65 years and older

• Pregnant women

• American Indians and Alaskan natives

• People who have chronic medical conditions

If your doctor prescribes medications to treat the flu, it is important to take the medicine promptly and properly. Take time to talk to your pharmacist about how to take the medications and what to expect. When treating the flu, either after seeing a doctor or on your own, the symptoms should begin to clear up within 1 week. If they do not, contact your doctor.

The CDC lists emergency warning signs to watch for that require immediate medical attention, especially for those in the high-risk groups.

Emergency Warning Signs

In Children:

• Fast breathing or trouble breathing

• Bluish skin color

• Not drinking enough fluids

• Not waking up or not interacting

• Being so irritable that they do not want to be held

• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

• Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

• Unable to eat

• Trouble breathing

• No tears when crying

• Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

• Younger than 2 months with fever of 100.4°F or higher

• 3 to 6 months old with fever of 103°F or higher

• Older than 6 months with fever of 104°F or higher

In Adults:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• Sudden dizziness

• Confusion

• Severe or persistent vomiting

• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

When Should I Treat My Illness at Home?

If you are not in one of the high-risk groups for complications, you do not have any of the emergency warning signs, you are well enough to take care of your basic needs, and your symptoms are mild, you are most likely able to treat your flu or cold at home. If you are not sure, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Clinical Commentary

What cold medicines do you feel are the most misused by patients?
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Self-Care for Cold and Flu

Getting plenty of rest and fluids is the first thing you can do to speed your recovery. It is best to avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, and instead focus on water, juice, and soup. Stay in bed, keep contact with household members to a minimum, and do not go out in public unless absolutely necessary. Caregivers should likewise keep contact to a minimum and wash hands often with soap and water.

Remember that during the first 3 days that you have cold symptoms, you are contagious. With the flu, you are contagious 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care.

Most symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications if they are getting in the way of sleep. The Table summarizes the common symptoms and their treatments. Again, take time to talk to your pharmacist about how to take the medications, read the package directions each time, and use only the supplied measuring device. Children younger than 6 years should take cough or cold medications only under the direction of a doctor. Children under the age of 19 years should never take aspirin.

How Can I AvoId GettIng The Flu or a Cold?

Good personal hygiene is important for preventing illness. Touching your face, mouth, nose, or eyes after contact with the virus provides an easy way in. Coughing and sneezing sends the virus into the air.

Using tissues, covering your mouth with the crook of your elbow, or even using a mask can reduce the spread of the virus. Getting vaccinated for the flu is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your community against the virus.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

Unless you are allergic to chicken eggs or had an allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past, everyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated. PT

Mr. Decker is a PharmD candidate at the University of Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Herring is pharmacist in charge at CVS Pharmacy in Carrboro, North Carolina.

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