How Do You Know If You Have An Infection?

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF A LOCALIZED INFECTION: The inflammatory response is the normal response of the healthy body when an injury has occurred. This injury can be the result of trauma or invasion by a disease-causing (pathogenic) organism such as a bacteria, virus, or fungus. As soon as the body detects injured or dead cells due to a trauma or an invading pathogenic organism, it goes into defense mode. Like astute, ready-to-defend soldiers, the white blood cells spring into action. Rushing to the site of injury or infection in a surge of blood, they go into defensive mode, attacking the invading organism and/or digesting damaged or dead tissue cells. This rushing of blood to the area, results in redness, heat and swelling that is visible on the exterior of the skin. The rapid surge of extra blood to the injured or damaged site causes pressure against nerve endings in the skin, resulting in pain.  Accompanying redness, heat, swelling and pain are the signs & symptoms (S & S) of a localized inflammatory response. These S & S are usually not accompanied by a fever. This normal body response occurs only when an individual has a healthy immune response.  In patients with unhealthy immune systems, such as patients receiving cancer chemo or radiation therapy, burn patients, or patients with AIDS, the S & S of inflammation do not occur and these patients can die from a simple localized infection.

If you have a localized infection, keep it clean and covered. Observe for any bleeding or other drainage, such as pus. If the symptoms worsen over the next 48 hours, if you develop a fever, or if you notice any red streaks moving away from the infected site towards your heart, call your doctor immediately. This may indicate that the localized infection is now in your blood stream and you now have what is known as a systemtic infection.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF A SYSTEMIC INFECTION: When a localized infection causes a patient to feel “sick”, to have an elevated body temperature (fever), or to have red streaks moving away from the site of a localized infection towards the heart, that infection is now considered to be systemic. That means that the infection has hit the blood stream. This is a sick individual who needs medical care immediately. The patient will most likely be put on oral antibiotics to treat the infection and sent home to rest.  Be sure to finish the entire prescription of antibiotics your doctor might order for you, even if you are feeling better after a few doses. In more severe systemic infections, the person may require hospitalization with intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

Terminology

Antibiotics: Prescription drugs used to treat bacterial infections.

Intravenous: Infusion of fluids, medicines or blood through a catheter place inside a vein.

Signs: evidence of disease or illness that are visible to others.

Symptoms: evidence of disease or illness that can only be perceived or felt by the patient

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