Respiratory viruses cause illnesses that affect the nose, throat and breathing passages including the lungs. These viruses commonly result in mild cold or flu like symptoms.
Respiratory viruses cause illnesses that affect the nose, throat and breathing passages including the lungs. These viruses commonly result in mild cold or flu like symptoms in most people, except in those with risk factors, the elderly and the very young. Common respiratory viruses include:
Children under the age of 3 years are at the highest risk of getting RSV.
Babies under 6 months old can have more severe illness.
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Respiratory viruses are spread from person to person by:
Symptoms may be different depending on which virus is causing the illness and people with the same virus may have different symptoms and severity.
However, there are symptoms that are common to many respiratory viruses. These include fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and feeling generally unwell.
Symptoms will often be mild or moderate, but some people may get very unwell and this is usually due to complications from worsening infection:
While anyone can get respiratory viruses, those who are at higher risk of severe illness include:
Older age is a risk factor for serious illness, particularly when combined with significant underlying health conditions. If you are at higher risk of severe illness talk to your doctor about what you should do if you get a respiratory virus.
Most people develop symptoms between 1 to 10 days after getting infected, depending on which virus they have.
If you have a respiratory virus infection, you are usually most contagious in the first few days that you have symptoms. However, sometimes people are infectious a few days before their symptoms start. While you continue to have a fever or generally feel unwell, you are still infectious. Some people, particularly those who are immunosuppressed, can remain infectious after they have recovered from their illness.
Most people can manage respiratory illnesses safely at home with rest, regular paracetamol or ibuprofen and keeping hydrated with frequent sips of water.
Remember all medicines should be used following the manufacturer's instructions:
Seek medical advice at any time you are concerned about your symptoms, or if you have any of the following:
Talk to your doctor or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 if you need further advice.
If your symptoms become severe, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
There are simple steps you can take to help protect yourself, your family and your community. These include: