The most common symptoms of a respiratory virus include a low-grade fever, sore throat, mild headache, dry cough, and a runny or congested nose, as Mayo Clinic reports. Respiratory virus symptoms are typically similar to mild cold symptoms and usually appear within four to six days after virus exposure.
When a respiratory virus develops into a lower respiratory tract illness such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia, patients may develop a severe cough, fever, bluish skin color due to lack of oxygen, difficulty breathing or wheezing, per Mayo Clinic. The severe symptoms develop as inflammation narrows airway passages to the lungs.
Respiratory viruses and infections are diagnosed by a physician who conducts a respiratory exam that includes an inspection of the nose and throat and an assessment of breathing and the sound of the lungs, according to Healthline. Some patients in the advanced stage of a respiratory virus may need a CT scan or X-ray to determine the condition of the lungs. In its early stages, a respiratory virus can be treated with over-the-counter cold, cough and pain medications to relieve the symptoms while the respiratory virus runs its course.
Although most respiratory viruses are not life-threatening, patients should seek medical attention immediately if a high fever exists, breathing is difficult and shallow, or if portions of the skin, lips or body turn blue, as stated by Mayo Clinic.