How long do viral infections last

Viral infection: duration, infection and treatment

A viral infection can be the cause of various diseases. There are around 200 cold viruses alone. The tiny pathogens look for host cells in the human body that they use to multiply. In the best case, the immune system succeeds in switching off the pathogens beforehand.

This is how viruses get into the body

Viruses can get into the human body in different ways. Cold and flu viruses are transmitted through droplet infection, through skin contact (smear infection) or by touching objects on which the pathogens are located, and then nestle on the mucous membrane of the nose or throat.

Other types of viruses can also find their way into the body through skin lesions or food. The HIV virus that causes AIDS can be transmitted, for example, through unprotected sexual intercourse or through contact with contaminated blood and syringes.

What is a virus A virus is a small, infectious pathogen - even smaller than a bacterium or fungus - that attaches to living cells and multiplies there.

A healthy immune system can intercept certain viruses before they become lodged in the body. This often happens with cold viruses in particular. In this case, the person does not even notice the virus infection, as there are no symptoms.

There is no reliable protection against cold viruses

On average, however, adults get a cold, also known as a flu, two to four times a year. This must be clearly differentiated from the real flu, the influenza, which is triggered by different influenza viruses. Children and especially toddlers get cold infections much more often because their immune system is not yet fully developed. Since there are hundreds of different virus types and subtypes that trigger classic cold symptoms, the body cannot always defend itself against them. Immunization against cold viruses is also not possible due to the variety of pathogens. Mostly it is so-called rhinoviruses, which cause a cold, cough and sore throat.

How do you get infected with cold viruses?

When coughing and sneezing, they are dispersed in the air as an aerosol and thus easily get to others. If you get viruses in your mouth, that's not a problem, because you swallow them with your saliva and the stomach acid destroys the pathogens. That is why it is not a problem, for example, to drink from someone else's glass who has a cold. Kissing is therefore also safe in itself. However, it can happen that droplets of the person with a cold get into the nose or eyes of the other person while speaking - these are the actual gateways for viruses from the air.

When are you contagious?

The incubation period of a cold infection is usually between one and four days. This means that you are infected with rhinoviruses, for example, and the first symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat or fatigue may appear 24 hours later. As soon as symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and coughing occur, there is a risk of contagion for others. You should therefore keep your distance and refrain from handshakes. Do not sneeze or cough into your hand, but into the crook of your arm or a handkerchief. As soon as the nose stops running and the acute phase has been overcome, the risk of infection is gone. A virus-related cold infection lasts around seven days. Usually you are only contagious in the first few days.

Virus multiplication

Once the virus has found a host cell, it begins to implant. First, it attaches to the cell surface. The virus envelope then fuses with the cell wall and the virus introduces its genetic information into the cell. This then produces new viruses, which are then released.

The immune system can prevent viruses from attaching to cells. To do this, the antibodies of the immune cells occupy the corresponding receptors of the viruses and block them. Host cells that have already been infected give off a messenger substance to the surrounding cells, which inhibits replication in the event of a virus attack. In addition, immune cells are attracted, which destroy the infected cells.

In this way, the body gradually gets rid of the pathogens by itself and the infection subsides. In this way, flu is usually over after about two weeks without the need for treatment. However, the body cannot fight off some pathogens on its own. These include, for example, the Ebola virus, which destroys cells so quickly that the immune system cannot keep up.

Types of viral infections

Viruses can cause harmless diseases such as a cold or cold sores. Most of the gastrointestinal infections in this country are also caused by viruses. Serious illnesses such as AIDS, pneumonia or liver inflammation (hepatitis) are also caused by viruses. Viruses are also the cause of classic childhood diseases such as chickenpox.

Typical virus-related diseases at a glance:

  • AIDS (HI virus)
  • Yellow fever (togavirus)
  • Flu (influenza viruses)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases (noroviruses)
  • Hepatitis A, B, C (hepatitis viruses)
  • Warts (papilloma virus)
  • Measles and mumps (paramyxoviruses)
  • Smallpox (smallpox virus)
  • Rubella (togavirus)
  • Chickenpox and zoster (herpes viruses)

Treatment of a viral infection

A variety of viral infections can be treated symptomatically. In contrast to bacterial infections, it is not possible to take antibiotics for viral diseases. Because the active ingredients are powerless against viruses.

  • Smaller infections like a cold or flu the body can usually cope with itself. Medicines and home remedies can be used to relieve symptoms such as fever, cough, and runny nose.
  • At Teething problems should be checked regularly by the doctor to prevent complications and secondary diseases. The doctor may also prescribe remedies to relieve itching.
  • For HIV patients There are a number of antiviral drugs available. These have the task of reducing the viral load in the body. Continuous medical care is essential in the treatment of HIV.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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