How to prevent viral infections? Tips and care

Viral infections are those caused by viruses, which enter the body of the host, reproduce and spread, generating diseases. They can reach all organisms (plants, animals and humans).

This text will explain about viral infections (popularly called virosis) and how we can prevent infectious particles from living in our bodies.

What are viruses?

Viruses are microorganisms that can reproduce and adapt according to the needs of the environment in which they find themselves. The word virus comes from the Latin and means “toxic or poisonous fluid”.

In general, viruses are not considered to be living beings. The classification used to designate them is that of infectious particles, since they do not have their own organism (that is, they need a host to reproduce).

When they find this host, which may be a person, they settle and end up causing viral infections.

It can be said that viruses are caused by two types of viruses:

  • Adenovirus: commonly causes colds, respiratory complications and conjunctivitis;
  • Enterovirus: in most situations, they cause gastrointestinal and skin infections, in addition to more serious diseases such as meningitis.

Most viral infections are subclinical, which means that the first symptoms only appear when the virus has already reproduced and spread.

The good news is that, in general, viral infections are considered benign, that is, they disappear within a few days without leaving sequelae.

But as every rule has an exception, there are also malignant viruses that can leave permanent sequels and even lead to death.

In such cases, it may be necessary to have laboratory tests done to confirm which virus is attacking the organism and to be able to fight it correctly.

How are viruses transmitted?

The transmission of viruses is quite simple: just contact infected body fluids (such as blood, sperm, sweat, vaginal discharge, tears, phlegm or saliva droplets projected by coughing or sneezing).

Urine, feces and vomiting can also transmit viruses if they are contaminated.

There are also cases of viruses that can be transmitted by insect bites (such as dengue and yellow fever ).

How to prevent diseases caused by viruses?

Prevention of diseases caused by viruses includes avoiding contact with wounds, secretions, fluids and excrement from infected people or animals. Other measures, such as vaccinations, hygiene habits, food care, physical exercise and the use of condoms during sexual intercourse also help to prevent viruses.

Learn a little more about each of these forms of prevention:


The vaccine is the application of the weakened (dormant) or dead (inactivated) infectious particle itself. But how can this be safe for health? Calm down, we’ll explain.

When the organism is hit by a virus, for example, defense mechanisms are activated to protect the body (immune system).

If these mechanisms are not strong or fast enough, the intruder “wins the battle” and then we get sick.

When the vaccine is applied, it enters the body and also activates defense systems. But since the infectious particle is not active, the body can beat it easily (creating antibodies to that infection).

Thus, when the organism is actually attacked by that microorganism, the memory of the immune system is activated. This stimulates the body to release antibodies that already know how to fight that disease.

The type of vaccine varies according to each case. Check out some vaccines that can help prevent viral infections:

  • Triple viral: prevents mumps, measles and rubella;
  • Oral vaccination: prevents child paralysis;
  • Hepatitis A vaccine; 
  • Rotavirus vaccine; 
  • Yellow fever vaccine; 
  • Influenza vaccine: prevents up to 4 types of flu.

Hygiene care

For viral infections that are transmitted by air and by contact with infected secretions, the main hygiene precautions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) are:

  • Wash your hands with running water and soap throughout the day: especially after sneezing, coughing, scratching your eyes and before cooking or touching people;
  • Apply gel alcohol to your hand: keep a bottle close at hand. So, if you are unable to wash your hands, you can disinfect them with this substance;
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth: remember that the virus can be transmitted through the air. By covering your nose and mouth, you prevent viruses from spreading until they find other hosts;
  • Avoid contact (hugs, kisses) with other people if you have a fever or cough: this tip is to prevent the virus from being easily transmitted;
  • After use, immediately throw the tissues in the trash: no more “keeping” the virus inside the used paper;
  • Do not spit in public environments: this way, you prevent the microorganisms present in your body from being exposed to other people;
  • In case of fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical help: after all, this is the best professional to diagnose and medicate you correctly.


WHO also has recommendations for preventing viral infections through food-related hygiene. These tips are:

  • Wash your hands before starting to prepare food and after cutting food;
  • Properly sanitize food;
  • Change the knife and tray to cut different types of meat;
  • Wash the cutlery with hot water and detergent, before using cold water;
  • Cook food before roasting or frying.

Strengthening the immune system through healthy eating is also a tip to prevent viruses.

To do this, consume citrus fruits, dark green vegetables and nuts and eliminate fats and sugars from the diet. This helps to strengthen the immune system.

Physical activities

The practice of physical activities brings many health benefits, including strengthening the immune system. 

So, yes, exercising can help prevent viral infections and diseases.

Use a condom

It is worth remembering that some Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are also caused by types of viruses (such as HPV , AIDS and Herpes).

Therefore, to prevent them, the recommendation is old but valid: use a condom during all types of sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, oral).

Avoid contact with sick animals and disease vectors

Prevention of viral infections is also achieved by avoiding contact with animals that are infected.

An example is the virus that causes rabies in dogs. If a dog is infected with this disease, human beings should be careful when caring for that animal (a recommendation is to use gloves to clean the food and water jars).

In addition to the infected animals, it is worth remembering that there are infectious diseases such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito , which transmits dengue fever, Zika and Chikungunya .

That is, the elimination of this insect is also a way to prevent some viral infections. Therefore, the old recommendation is valid here: do not leave standing water and eliminate all possible breeding sites for Aedes.

What are the symptoms of viral infections?

Viral infections usually cause similar symptoms. The most common are fever , malaise, tiredness and loss of appetite.

But some viruses can trigger different symptoms. For example, if the virus is stomach, the signs can include diarrhea , nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting.   

If the virus is attacking the respiratory system, the person may have a cough, stuffy nose, runny nose, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

What fights viruses?

The coordinator of the Center for Epidemiology and hospital infection control at Hospital Marcelino Champagnat in Curitiba, Viviane Maria de Carvalho Hessel Dias, explains that some viruses have specific treatment (such as the flu virus ).

But the infectologist warns that most of the diseases caused by the particles do not have a specific treatment (this is the case of the new coronavirus that causes respiratory infections, for example), being the organism itself responsible for recovering alone.

Viviane Dias also reinforces the guidelines to prevent viral infections: vaccination, respiratory etiquette (covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing), not sharing personal items, airing the environment, using disposable handkerchiefs and especially hand hygiene frequently with 70 alcohol or soap and water.

But if the infection occurs, what can help the body to fight it are rest, hydration and a healthy diet.

Some antiviral drugs (such as Zanamivir , Tamiflu and Mantidan ), antipyretic and analgesic remedies tend to be recommended by medical professionals to relieve the symptoms, until the body clears the infection.

To find out exactly what is the best medication for your case, seek help from a doctor.

What are the diseases caused by viruses?

There are several viral diseases! The most common and well-known are: flu, colds, dengue, chikungunya, zika, yellow fever, chicken pox (chickenpox), mumps , rabies, HPV, herpes and hepatitis (of all types), AIDS, childhood paralysis ( polio ), measles , rubella and smallpox.

It is worth remembering that viruses can infect any living organism, from plants, animals and humans.

Therefore, it is common for some viruses to be transmissible from animals to humans (such as swine flu, dengue or rabies).

Coronavirus prevention: what to do?

Recently, a new variation of the Coronavirus family was discovered, which has alarmed the population and the authorities of several countries, mainly China.

It is 2019-nC (also known as the new Coronavirus), a virus that is causing respiratory infections (such as pneumonia and acute respiratory heart failure) and causing several people to die.

Another 6 variants of this same viral family were already known, the first of which was discovered in the 1960s.

The infectious disease physician at Hospital São Vicente FUNEF in Curitiba, Letícia Ziggiotti, explains that 2019-nC is a type of virus that can be transmitted by animals and between people.

It reinforces that the precautionary measures of the New Coronavirus are the same indicated to prevent other viral diseases (like the flu). Among them are:

  • Wash your hands frequently;
  • Use alcohol gel, especially after coughing or sneezing;
  • Keep the rooms well ventilated (open windows and doors for circular air);
  • Use disposable tissues (of paper) to blow your nose;
  • Avoid contact with people who have an acute respiratory infection.

Letícia Ziggioti says that there is still no specific treatment for the infection caused by this type of virus and warns: if you manifest symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, look for a health service. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that trips to China should only be made in essential cases, this is to prevent a pandemic (global infection).

Viral infections are caused by viruses that fall into two families (adenovirus and enterovirus).

Some types of viral infections can be prevented with vaccination. Hygiene habits such as washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth and nose when sneezing can also help prevent viruses.

In case of doubts or suspicions, look for a medical professional. 

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