Start of Main Content

Acute Illness

What is an acute illness?

An acute illness is a health condition that develops quickly and lasts only a short amount of time, such as a few days or weeks. While acute illnesses come on quickly, they often improve once short-term or urgent care is provided. Common causes of acute illnesses include viruses, infections, or injuries.

Some examples of acute illnesses include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma attacks
  • Flu
  • Heart attacks
  • Strep throat
  • Respiratory infections
  • Burns

While symptoms vary among acute illnesses, some common symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Headache

Some acute illnesses may require hospitalization due to urgent symptoms, but patients can often quickly return home and to normal activities once the illness is successfully treated.

How do acute illnesses impact health?

Many acute illnesses may go away on their own or are treated with a simple course of antibiotics. However, some acute illnesses can be life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention, such as heart attacks, appendicitis, pneumonia, or organ failure.

Unlike chronic diseases, acute illnesses do not typically require as much long-term care, as they usually only last a few days to a few weeks, while chronic diseases can last months or years. However, proper management of acute illness requires reliable and competent emergency or urgent care services with resources to quickly diagnose and treat the conditions, especially in life-threatening instances.