What Is Infection?
infection occurs when a foreign organism enters the body or multiplies in a
harmful way. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can all lead to infection.
Also called germs, these organisms can multiply quickly and make you sick.
Infections are very common. Often they can be treated at home, but in some
cases they can be life threatening.
that cause infections often live on or near the body. But they don’t cause harm
until something changes. For example, bacteria can live harmlessly on your skin
but not cause infection until they enter your body through a cut.
affect people in different ways. One person’s immune system might fight off an infection
while another person’s can’t. Children have an increased risk of infection
because they don’t have fully developed immune systems.
infections come from direct person-to-person contact, including sexual contact.
A person can get an infection by touching contaminated objects, by eating contaminated
food, or by breathing in bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Insect bites may also
Types of Infection
to the World Health Organization, some common infectious diseases are:
- influenza strains
- dengue fever
- hepatitis A, B, and E
- yellow fever
common and less serious infectious diseases are:
- food poisoning
- common cold
- cold sores
- ear infections
- urinary tract infections
- sexually transmitted diseases
- strep throat
- yeast infections
- whooping cough
- diaper rash
- jock itch
- athlete’s foot
What Causes Infection?
occurs when infection-causing organisms enter the body, attack tissues, and
release toxins. Organisms can enter through wounds on the skin, for example. Infection
can also result from healthcare procedures. A catheter may cause a urinary
tract infection, and infection can occur at the site of surgery incisions.
infections occur when harmful bacteria enter the body. Some bacteria
infections, such as staph infections, can be deadly if the bacteria enter the
bloodstream, joints, or organs. Common bacterial infections include:
- strep (strep throat, impetigo, UTIs, and
- staph (blood infections and toxic shock
- E. coli.
infections occur when viruses invade healthy cells in the body and multiply. Viral
infections can be relatively harmless, but they can also be deadly. Examples
infections occur when a fungus, such as mold, enters or lands on the body. Fungal
infections spread through the movement of spores. A fungus may land on the skin
or nails or be inhaled into the lungs. Some fungal infections are:
- athlete’s foot
- yeast infections
- nail fungus
- fungal sinusitis
infections occur when parasites feed off of the body. Parasites may be
transmitted by contaminated food or water, by animal or bug bites, or through
direct contact with an infected person. Parasitic infections include:
What Are the Symptoms of Infection?
of infection will depend on the type of infection and where it is.
of bacterial infections are often present around a wound or break of the skin,
in the ear, or in the throat. These symptoms include:
- warmth and localized pain
- blisters and pus
of other types of infection may include:
range of motion
How Is an Infection Diagnosed?
mild infections can be managed at home, but others may be serious. If you
suspect a serious infection, see your doctor right away. Without immediate
treatment, infection can spread, leading to potentially serious health
diagnose an infection, your doctor will do a physical examination. He or she
will ask you about any injuries or events that possibly led to an infection. Your
doctor might take blood or other fluid samples for testing. If your doctor
suspects infection in the blood or bones, an X-ray or an MRI may be performed.
These tests may help to identify the type or cause of the infection and the
extent of tissue damage. This information will determine your treatment plan.
How Is an Infection Treated?
depends on the type of infection.
infections are often treated with antibiotics, taken either intravenously or
infections are resistant to antibiotics. Some viral infections can be treated
with antiviral medication.
infections may be difficult to treat. Anti-fungal medicines can be topical (applied
to skin) or oral.
infections are treated based on the underlying parasite. Medication may treat
parasitic infections, but some infections are more easily treated than others.
affecting the skin or soft tissues of the body might be treated by soaking in
warm water. Other treatment options include antibiotics and/or ointments
applied directly to the infected spot.
cases, your doctor will drain infection-related fluid or remove dead tissues.
Very rarely, infection could lead gangrene and amputation.
What Is the Prognosis for Infection?
infections respond well to antibiotics and heal without further complications.
Overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistance, making infections harder to
treat. Seeking treatment early will help reduce the risk of infection-related
seeking treatment for infections can lead to further health problems. Many
types of infection can spread to the blood, joints or other areas of the body,
making them harder to treat. If infection spreads in this way, serious health
complications may occur.
easiest way to prevent infections is to practice good hygiene, especially with
wounds or cuts. These tips will help prevent infection:
- Wash your hands before touching wounds.
- Be sure to keep wounds clean at all times,
especially removing dirt, hair, and other debris.
- Use sterile dressings and ointments.
- Seek medical attention for deep wounds or wounds
with a lot of foreign debris.
ways to reduce risk of infection:
share personal items such as razors.
caution if using tampons.
available vaccines (such as chickenpox, measles, and hepatitis).
safe sex techniques.
- Consider additional vaccinations
and be cautious about food consumption when traveling to developing countries.