InfectionA Infection can lead to serious diseases regardless of their origin (source of infection). The types of infectious diseases range from a harmless cold to a life-threatening disease such as hepatitis or HIV. One of the most important basic hygiene rules for preventing infection is thorough hand washing. Especially children, seniors and sick people belong to the risk group.
Table of contents
What is an infection?
An infection occurs when bacteria, fungi or parasites, i.e. pathogenic organisms, or pathogenic molecules, such as viruses, enter an organism, remain there and eventually multiply. These pathogenic organisms or molecules are the pathogens that attack the organism. The resulting diseases are called infectious diseases.
Especially children, elderly and chronically ill people are susceptible to infectious diseases. However, an infection can affect anyone whose immune system is permanently or temporarily weakened.
An infection can occur in different ways. Pathogens responsible for an infection can enter the organism via the intestines, skin, mucous membranes, respiratory tract, urinary tract or genital organs.
Among others, droplet infections, smear infections, infections via exchange of body fluids and infections via insects are distinguished. These four infection routes are collectively called exogenous infections, because the pathogen originates from the environment. In contrast, an autoinfection (or endogenous infection) is an infection caused by a pathogen that does not originate from the outside world, but rather from the body's own flora.
When the immune system is weakened, the pathogen enters the blood from the intestine or lungs, for example. It happens in individual cases that being infected in a medical institution, often as a result of a medical intervention. These pathogens are highly resistant to antibiotics.
Symptoms and course
Typical symptoms of infection:
An infectious disease is not immediately noticeable, because the pathogens usually need a certain time (incubation period) , d. h. A specific time interval from infection to the onset of a disease. Only at the peak of the infection do symptoms appear, which can vary depending on the type of infection. Some infections do not cause any symptoms. These infections are called inapparent infections. After a certain incubation period, symptoms usually appear, such as fever, itching, fatigue, pain and, in severe cases, cramps.
As the infection progresses, swelling, rashes, and inflammation may become apparent. Swelling of the lymph nodes also indicates the presence of an infection. An untreated infection can lead to the pathogens entering the lymphatic tie and being transported from there to other organs. After this process, the pathogens attack other organs. The risk of infection varies according to the type of infection. Specific to the causative disease. After relevant treatment, the patient has fewer and fewer symptoms, and recovery increases.
Diagnosis begins with a patient interview (history) to determine the origin of the infection. The doctor will ask, among other things, about recent events in the patient's daily life, for example, travel abroad, medical interventions and the use of medications. After the conversation there is a physical examination. The examination may include X-rays, ultrasound examinations, blood sampling and urinalysis. Depending on the location of the infection, the attending physician may take a swab and send it to the laboratory for analysis. A swab can be taken from the nose, mouth, genital area and secretions.
Of course, infection is associated with various complications, which in some cases also requires medical treatment. As a rule, an infection also comes with different accompanying symptoms. The accompanying symptoms include, for example, headaches, a stuffy nose, an elevated temperature, nausea or even vomiting. If these accompanying symptoms occur, a visit to the doctor is definitely advisable. If a doctor is consulted promptly, an existing infection can be treated quickly and effectively.
If such an infection is not treated with appropriate medication, then a significant exacerbation can be expected. The individual symptoms will increase if the intake of the corresponding medication is dispensed with. Existing headaches will be considerably aggravated in such a case. Even a fever can rise to a dangerous temperature. At the latest in such a case, a visit to the doctor must not be put off for a long time. If you decide early enough to visit the doctor, you can count on a quick and timely recovery. For this reason, infection is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly.
Treatment and therapy
Depending on the type of infection, different treatment methods are prescribed by the doctor. Antibiotics are suitable for the treatment of a bacterial infection. The appropriate antibiotic is always prescribed by a medical specialist.
Viral infection, unlike bacterial infection, cannot be treated with antibiotics. The symptoms of a viral infection can only be treated symptomatically, d.h. only the symptoms can be alleviated. A flu-like infection, for example, is a viral infection. Painkillers as well as anti-inflammatory (diclofenac) and antipyretic (paracetamol, ibuprofen) drugs can be administered to relieve symptoms.
Fungal infections are usually treated with antimycotics. For a local fungal infection, the doctor usually prescribes an ointment or gel. Since the infections can be very different in their dangerousness and course, different treatment methods refer to different infections. In the fight against mild localized infections can be natural or. Homeopathic remedies help.
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The transmission of pathogens can be prevented primarily by frequent, thorough hand washing. Thorough means cleaning hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If the risk of infection is higher than normal, i.e. if someone in the environment is ill, it is recommended to disinfect hands regularly.
When eating raw foods, such as fruits and vegetables, make sure to wash them thoroughly. Meat and fish should not be eaten raw, but properly cooked or fried. Furthermore, one must pay attention to hygiene at every level in everyday life, for example, not using another person's toothbrushes.
In general, a healthy diet and lifestyle are the most important prevention methods, because infection primarily affects people who do not have a strong immune system. There is a vaccination against some, but by far not all, viral infections.
– Herold, G.: Internal medicine. Self-published, Cologne 2011 – Herold, G.: Internal Medicine. Self-published, Cologne 2013 – Koop, I.: Gastroenterology compact. Thieme, Stuttgart 2013 – Arasteh, K., et al.: Dual series. Internal medicine. This article has been prepared in accordance with current medical literature. Written from sound scientific sources. Quality arance by: Dr. med. Nonnenmacher Last updated on: 15. November 2021