WEDNESDAY, JULY 18: Germs are everywhere. They are in the air and on just about every surface imaginable — including your own body.
It’s not exactly pleasant to think about, but the truth is most germs won’t harm you.
Your immune system protects you against a multitude of infectious agents. However, some germs are dangerous because they can mutate to breach your immune system’s defenses. Knowing more about how germs work can increase your chances of avoiding infection.
Perhaps the most commonly known infectious agents are bacteria and viruses.
Most people don’t understand the difference as bacterial and viral infections have many similarities.
Both types of infections are caused by microbes reproducing in the body, and are spread by coughing and sneezing as well as contact with contaminated people, creatures, surfaces, food and water.
In addition, in some cases, it may be difficult to determine whether bacteria or a virus is causing your symptoms. Many ailments, such as pneumonia, meningitis and diarrhoea can be caused by either type of microbe. This distinction can be tricky. That’s why it’s worth a visit to your doctor.
There are some signs to look for:
n Most virally caused colds and other upper respiratory infections will produce a wide variety of symptoms, such as a sore throat, sniffles, cough and achiness.
n Bacterial infections often cause a more focused area of misery, such as a severely painful ear or an extremely sore throat.
n Viruses usually leave within a week.
Illnesses that last more than 10 days or that grow worse suddenly after five to seven days may have evolved into a bacterial infection.
n People with underlying lung problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other chronic illnesses, may be more prone to bacterial infections and should seek a professional opinion sooner.
Both bacterial and viral infections can cause mild, moderate and severe disease. Infection, often the first step, occurs when bacteria, viruses or other microbes enter your body and begin to multiply.
Disease occurs when the cells in your body are damaged as a result of the infection, and signs and symptoms of an illness appear.
In response to infection, your immune system goes to work with an army of white blood cells, antibodies and other mechanisms that rid your body of whatever is causing the infection.
For instance, in fighting off the common cold, your body might react with fever, coughing and sneezing.
As you might think, bacterial infections are caused by bacteria while viral infections are caused by viruses.
Infections caused by bacteria include strep throat, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections.
Diseases that result from viruses include influenza, measles, chickenpox, AIDS and the common cold.
Perhaps the most important distinction between bacteria and a virus is that antibiotic drugs usually kill bacteria, but they aren’t effective against viruses. Recently, there’s been an increase in respiratory infections for which antibiotics do not work. In fact, taking an antibiotic unnecessarily for a virus can cause bacteria to become resistant making it that much harder to fight off bacterial infections without extremely powerful antibiotics that pose a greater risk of side effects.
What’s the best way to stay disease-free? Prevent infections from happening in the first place. You can prevent infection through simple tactics, such as regular hand-washing, vaccinations and appropriate medications.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire and the new pharmacy at Lindo’s Family Foods in Warwick. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm.