What is an infection?
Infection is the attack and increase very quickly of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not normally exist within the body.
An infection may localize or it may spread through the blood to become systemic (body wide). However, some natural microorganisms that live in the body are not considered infections. For example, bacteria that normally live within the mouth and intestine are not infections.
Bacteria and viruses are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye. They can cause similar symptoms and are often spread in the same way, but that’s where the similarities end.
Distinguish between bacteria and viruses are important for either the diagnosis or the treatment.
- A bacterium is a single, but complex, cell. It can survive on its own, inside or outside the body.
- Most bacteria aren’t harmful. In fact, we have many bacteria on and inside our body, especially in the gut to help digest food.
- Viruses are smaller and are not cells. Unlike bacteria, they need a host such as a human or animal to multiply. Viruses cause infections by entering and multiplying inside the host’s healthy cells.
How common are infections?
Infections are extremely common. They can affect patients at any age. They can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of an infection?
The common symptoms of an infection are:
- Coughing and sneezing
All symptoms above are ways the immune system tries to rid the body of infectious organisms. But bacterial and viral infections are dissimilar in many other important aspects, most of them due to the organisms’ structural differences and the way they respond to medications.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above orhave any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes an infection?
Bacterial and viral infections have many things in common. Both types of infections are caused by microbes bacteria and viruses, they may also spread by the same way such as:
- Coughing and sneezing.
- Contact with infected people, especially through kissing and sex.
- Contact with contaminated surfaces, food, and water.
- Contact with infected creatures, including pets, livestock, and insects such as fleas and ticks.
What increases my risk for an infection?
There are many risk factors for an infections, such as:
- A person with a cold can spread the infection by coughing and/or sneezing.
- Bacteria or viruses can be passed on by touching or shaking hands with another person.
- Touching food with dirty hands will also allow viruses or bacteria from the intestine to spread.
- Body fluids, such as blood, saliva and semen, can contain the infecting organisms and transmission of such fluids, for example by injection or sexual contact. The most common and severe viral infections are hepatitis and AIDS.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is an infection diagnosed?
Exception the flu which is not a life-threatening disease, you should consult your doctor if you think you have a bacterial or viral infection.
In some cases, it’s difficult to determine the causes exactly of an infection because many ailments, including pneumonia, meningitis, and diarrhea can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. But your doctor often can define the cause through your medical history and physical exam.
A blood or urine test is sometimes needed to help confirm a diagnosis, or a “culture test” of tissue to identify bacteria or viruses. Occasionally, a biopsy of affected tissue may be required.
How is an infection treated?
Bacterial infection treatment
Doctors usually treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. They either kill bacteria or stop them multiplying.
But since antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, antibiotics may be prescribed only for serious bacterial infections.
Viral infection treatment
The treatment of viral infections can include:
- Managing symptoms, such as honey for coughs and warm fluids like chicken soup for oral hydration
- Paracetamol to relieve fever
- Stopping viral reproduction using antiviral medicines, such as medicines for HIV/AIDS and cold sores
- Preventing infection in the first place, such as vaccines for flu and hepatitis.
- Remember: Antibiotics won’t work for viral infections.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remediesthat can help me manage infections?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with infections (bacterial and viral):
- Wash your hands thoroughly (often one of the best ways to avoid catching a cold).
- Shaking hands with someone who has a cold is risky, so avoid rubbing your eyes or nose afterwards.
- Food should be cooked or cooled down as quickly as possible.
- Vegetables and meat must be stored separately and prepared on separate chopping boards.
- Meat should preferably be served well-done.
- Remember that food with these invisible organisms does not necessarily smell bad.
- Some organisms are killed as the food is cooked, but they can still leave toxic substances that may cause diarrhea and vomiting.
- Using condoms during sexual intercourse is essential to reduce the likelihood of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Differences between bacterial and viral infection. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bacterial-vs-viral-infection. Accessed December 27, 2016
Bacterial and Viral Infections. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bacterial-and-viral-infections#2. Accessed December 27, 2016
Viruses and bacteria. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/conditions/infections/a5560/viruses-and-bacteria/. Accessed December 27, 2016
Review Date: August 21, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019