Viruses completely rely on the energy and metabolic systems of host cells for life activities. Viral infections usually lead to cytopathic effects and host diseases. To date, there are still no specific clinical vaccines or drugs against most viral infections. Therefore, understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of viral infections is of great significance to prevent and treat viral diseases. A variety of viral infections are related to the p38 MAPK signalling pathway, and p38 is an important host factor in virus-infected cells. Here, we introduce the different signalling pathways of p38 activation and then summarise how different viruses induce p38 phosphorylation. Finally, we provide a general summary of the effect of p38 activation on virus replication. Our review provides integrated data on p38 activation and viral infections and describes the potential application of targeting p38 as an antiviral strategy.