What is Bacterial Infection?
Every year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are now resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result of these infections. So, what are bacterial infections?
A bacterial infection is a rapid increase of harmful bacteria in the body, and most often are strains that can infect any area of the body. Meningitis, food poisoning, and skin infections are just a few of the diseases caused by harmful bacteria.
Bacteria are classified as gram-positive or gram-negative, and this classification is used for gram staining, bacterial culture, and antibiotic sensitivity determination among other tests used to figure out the appropriate bacterial infection treatment.
What causes a Bacterial Infection?
When harmful bacteria strains enter your body system, they can reproduce quickly. Many strains are known to give off toxins which can damage tissues and make you ill. Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E.coli are a few more well-known examples of harmful bacteria.
These bacteria can easily make their way into your body through any number of entryways, but direct contact is most common and involves coming into contact with an infected bodily fluid by sharing drinks, being bitten by insects that are hosts for bacteria, or even too close to someone who has the infection when the cough. Sexual contact is also a very common way of contracting bacterial infections. Such kinds of bacterial infections are termed STDs, Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Transmission of harmful bacteria can also occur when people consume contaminated food. Indeed, the most common way of getting ill because of bacteria is food poisoning. Another way is the fecal-oral contact which happens when an individual comes into contact with sewage water; this is an issue that unfortunately is extremely prevalent in developing countries where poor sewage and drainage systems are commonplace.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bacterial Infection
Bacterial infection is a broad term used for various diseases caused by a certain type of bacteria. This is why the symptoms and signs may differ from one type to another.
Most notable signs and symptoms of any bacterial infection include:
- Coughing and sneezing
- Frequent fever
- Enlarged lymph nodes; swollen glands
- A persistent generalized feeling of being unwell
- Localized redness and warmness of the affected area
- Site-specific inflammation
The above-mentioned symptoms are common for all types of this illness. To elaborate more on various types of bacterial infection symptoms and their causes, here is a list:
- Bacterial Skin Infections
Usually caused by gram-positive strains, common skin infections include cellulitis, impetigo, and boils. 3 major signs of such infections are localized redness, swelling, and a particular part of the skin feeling warm when compared to the surrounding skin.
- Urinary Tract Infection
More commonly abbreviated to be UTIs, these infections are more prevalent in females and affect the bladder and urethra. Symptoms include frequent urges to urinate, painful urination, burning sensations and general unease around the urethra.
- Bacterial Food Poisoning
Caused by harmful bacteria strains found in contaminated food or beverages, this form of bacterial infection can be especially painful to deal with. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. If signs are ignored then complications can arise, and patients may need to be hospitalized.
- Strep Throat
One of the most common infectious diseases caused by bacteria, especially in children, is strep throat. While it is an irritating disease, it is not severe and can usually be cleared out easily and in a short time. Symptoms of this condition include throat pain, difficulty with swallowing, ear pain and fever.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you experience any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. If you feel symptoms that might indicate problems in your bloodstream, nervous system or a rapidly spreading soft tissue infection, contact your doctor immediately. Similar symptoms which can hint at severe complications include:
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Confusion, agitation, and drowsiness
- Severe headaches
- Neck stiffness
- Cold, pale or dusky skin
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heart rate
- Extreme discoloration of the infected skin patch
- Severe pain
Treatment options for Bacterial Infections
The most effective treatment for any bacterial infection is the appropriate dosage of bacteria-specific antibiotics.
Antibiotics are medications that actively fight bacterial infections. They act by disrupting the reproductive and growth processes which are vital for wide-spread bacteria to multiply in your bloodstream. Depending on the gram-positive or negative classification and bacterial culture, your doctor will prescribe you the antibiotic which will be most effective for your infection.
It is very much necessary that you take your antibiotic medication exactly as prescribed. If you fail to do so, the bacterial infection can become severe. On the other hand, if you use an antibiotic unnecessarily and not according to the dosage plan then there is the possibility of two things happening. If you discontinue before the entire dosage is completed, the possibility arises that the infection can come back even stronger. Oppositely, if you use it for a prolonged period and longer than specified on your prescription then the bacteria strains can become resistant to the medication. In this case, the harmful bacteria and will not be defeated, no matter how much medication you take.
It is important to mention that many people confuse a viral infection with a bacterial infection and use antibiotics for viral diseases. Antibiotics are only prescribed for bacterial diseases, but in some cases, they can be used to prevent a ‘secondary bacterial infection’ when a person is suffering from a viral infection. A secondary bacterial infection occurs when an individual is in a weakened or compromised state due to an exhaustive illness. In these instances, an appropriate antibiotic dose can help prevent any bacterial infection from worsening a patient’s condition further.
Consult with your doctor regarding the appropriate medication and bacterial infection treatment you must use to deal with the symptoms being experienced. Your doctor’s recommendation may depend on any other medical condition you might have, as well as the severity and the type of the disease you’re dealing with. Do not try to self-medicate in hopes of treating your infection symptoms.
While bacteria-inflicted infections can be efficiently dealt with using a doctor-recommended plan, self medicating can lead to serious and unwanted outcomes like resistance to antibiotics, extreme side effects and worsening of your medical condition.
- Howstuffworks – How do bacteria become resistant to antibiotics?
- Diffen – Gram-positive vs. Gram-negative Bacteria