How Long Does Viral Fever Last in Children and Adults?

Viral fever is not a medical condition by itself, but it is the most common symptom associated with any viral infection. It is a very common symptom that affects both children and adults. A large number of viruses have been identified, which are capable of causing viral infection. The signs and symptoms of viral fever, largely depends on the type of virus that causes the infection. In most of the cases, the condition is contagious and can easily affect other people who are in close contact with the patient. Unlike bacterial infection where antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria, there are no medications that can kill the viruses that cause the infection. The medications that are usually prescribed to patients with viral infection, provides palliative relief and helps in controlling the severity of the condition.

How Long Does Viral Infection Last In Children And Adults?

On the average viral fever lasts for 1 to 5 days; however, in serious cases the fever may be persistent and recurrent. In most of the cases, the duration of the viral infection depends on multiple factors. This includes:

  • Age of the patient
  • Health status of the patient
  • Immune response of the patient
  • Type of causative agent (virus).

For example, common cold caused by rhinoviruses, gives rise to fever which lasts for 1 to 2 days; whereas viral flu caused by influenza virus causes fever which may last for 2 to 3 days. Fever caused by adenovirus, which infects the respiratory tract and intestinal tract, can last for 3 to 5 days. Rotavirus causing gastroenteritis, gives rise with mild to moderate fever, which last for 1 to 2 days. Fever associated with hand-foot-and-mouth disease caused by coxsackie viruses, is generally low fever lasting for 2 to 3 days. Though most of the fever lasts for 1 to 5 days, severe condition can cause persistently high fever lasting for more than a week (1 to 2 weeks). If the fever is abnormally high and it is difficult to bring down the temperature, the condition must be treated as an emergency and provided medical assistance at the earliest.

As mentioned earlier, age is an important factor which affects the duration of viral fever. In general, viral fever lasts for about 4 to 6 days in children, i.e. about 2 times longer than in adults. Infants and babies cannot adapt to the changes in temperature like adults and thus, are more susceptible to viral infection. It is much tougher to bring down a viral fever in babies than in young adults. The immune system is much weaker in children as compared to adults. This makes children more susceptible to infections. It has been noted that viral fever lasts for 2 to 3 days longer when compared with adults suffering from the same viral fever. It is advised to visit a physician as soon as possible if the fever lasts for more than 48 hours in children, as it may indicate serious issues and may need special attention.


The duration of viral infection largely depends on factors such as age, health condition, type of virus, immune status etc. In general, the viral fever lasts for about 1 to 5 days in adults and 2 to 3 days longer in children. The temperature may not indicate the severity of the condition, and thus whether it is mild or high fever; it is advised to consult a doctor if the fever lasts for more than 48 hours in adults as well as in children. If left untreated, viral fever can cause severe complications including death.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 5, 2018

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