Infection (General)

Infection (General)

  1. What is infection?
  2. What causes an infection?
  3. How does the body respond to infection?
  4. How do I tell if I have an infection?
  5. Do I need anti-biotics?

Infection is a term that refers to a foreign organism harming the body. Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.

Common forms of bacteria live on our skin and also in the intestinal tract- these can cause infection through a break in the normal protective barriers, as with a cut or puncture wound. Bacteria may also enter the body and cause infection through the respiratory or urinary tract. When bacteria gain access to the body’s own reserves of nutrients, like glucose, folate, or iron, they grow in number and challenge the body’s defenses.

Viruses infect the body’s own cells, taking residence inside them and hijacking their machinery to replicate themselves and spread to other cells, cause destruction of the cell, or both.  While bacteria often die without nutrients, viruses are able to survive for long periods of time inside a biological shell. Household objects, clothes, and other shared belongings can unintentionally transmit microbial infection, especially viruses. Viral infection commonly causes infection in the sinuses, throat, lungs, and intestines.

The body responds to infection by energizing its Immune System. We have a built-in defense force that consists of many different types of protective cells. White blood cells are a category of cells designed to detect, alert, quarantine, and kill foreign microbes that threaten to infect the body. In response to infection, our bodies increase production of White Blood Cells (WBC’s), increase the production of defensive chemical signals, and circulating anti-bodies which are used in detection and destruction of microbes.

If you experience an infection, your body may exhibit signs of its increased defensive activity. Fever, chills, a fast heart rate, skin flushing (redness), tenderness, and general feelings of fatigue are common signs that can indicate the presence of infection. If you experience these symptoms, please consult your doctor to address the possibility of infection.

Antibiotics are the largest category of anti-microbial drugs, used to fight against bacteria. Anti-fungal medications, similarly, are used against infections caused by fungi. If your doctor determines that bacteria are causing an infection, then a course of anti-biotics may be prescribed for you.

However, patients may often be confused why they “feel sick”, but do not receive a prescription for antibiotics. Commonly, viral infections may look and feel very similar to a bacterial infection- often patients are not able to distinguish which type of organism may be causing their infection. It is important to know that anti-biotics are only used to fight bacteria, but they do absolutely nothing against viruses. If antibiotics are prescribed when they are not needed, a person is exposed to risks of side effects (serious types of diarrhea, such as C. Diff infection), or risk developing resistance to overused antibiotics.

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