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Should I Be Worried About Adenovirus?

Provided by Robitussin®

It may have caused your last cold.

woman blowing her nose

First question: Have you heard of adenovirus? It isn’t talked about as much as flu viruses, but it’s something that should be on your radar. Many of the symptoms of adenovirus infections mirror the flu’s, so adenoviruses can be hard to spot. And while outbreaks of adenovirus infections aren’t as common in the U.S., they do happen. A report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests one of the strains may be an underestimated cause of acute respiratory diseases in adults. Luckily, most adenovirus infections are mild, so there’s no need to panic, but it’s good to learn more about them.

What Is Adenovirus Exactly?

Adenoviruses are a group of germs that cause a variety of respiratory illnesses, including the common cold, bronchitis, croup, and pneumonia, according to the CDC. Less commonly in the U.S., it can also cause conjunctivitis or pink eye, diarrhea, bladder inflammation or infection, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord. It can have severe effects on babies, people with compromised immune systems, and people who already have a respiratory or cardiac disease.

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How Can You Catch It?

There are more than 50 types of this virus (yeesh!). Adenovirus outbreaks happen more often in late winter, spring, and early summer, according to the CDC. Types 4 and 7 can spread in small lakes and swimming pools when there’s not enough chlorine present, leading to fever and conjunctivitis. It’s resistant to many common disinfectants and can remain infectious for periods of time on environmental surfaces and medical instruments. There is a vaccine for some strains of adenovirus, but it’s only available to military personnel.

One major difference between the flu and any the common cold is that the flu typically comes with more severe body aches. It’s also more common in the colder months. If you’re concerned or your symptoms seem severe, call your doctor. Your doctor may also perform a test to determine if you have the flu.

How Can You Treat It?

As most adenovirus infections are mild, there isn’t medical care required for most cases other than managing the symptoms. An OTC medicine like Robitussin can help relieve symptoms like a cough and congestion. And whether or not you are sick, washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is a good idea to protect yourself from any germs, as well as avoiding touching your face. And if you’re sick, cover your mouth with your elbow or sleeve when you cough or sneeze, and stay home from work or school until you feel better.

Get more great health and wellness stories at Shape.com/Strive.