Viral Infections in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

You don't feel well, but it's not clear what's causing it. You may have a viral infection. Viruses cause many illnesses, such as the common cold, influenza, fever, rashes, and the diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting that are often called "stomach flu." You may wonder if antibiotic medicines could make you feel better. But antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria. They don't work on viruses.

The good news is that viral infections usually aren't serious. Most will go away in a few days without medical treatment. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get plenty of rest if you feel tired.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 20 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Stay home from school, work, and other public places while you have a fever.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You seem to be getting much sicker.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You have blood in your stools.
  • You have new belly pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • You have a new rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You start to get better and then get worse.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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