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 symptoms of a stomach infection. 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 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. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. 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. 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 work, school, 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 now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You seem to be getting much sicker.
- You have a new or higher fever.
- You have a severe headache.
- You have a stiff neck.
- You have blood in your stools.
- You have new belly pain, or your pain gets worse.
- You have a new rash.
- You are confused or disoriented.
- You have trouble thinking or concentrating.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You start to get better and then get worse.
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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