What to look for
Fever, chills, sweating, headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue are symptoms common to many infections, however there are symptoms specific to different types of infections.
Viruses and bacteria are constantly battling with our bodies and trying to invade. Once on or inside the body, they try to survive and reproduce. Most do not succeed as our body has a good defence system.
Those that survive do so by preying on healthy cells and tissue. The process of invasion, growth, and our body’s reaction to them is what is meant by infection.
For a more full description of the function of our immune system please go to the entry ‘immune problems’.
Our body’s quick response usually stops all infections. However, sometimes this does not occur as the body’s immune system is weak and not functioning as it should.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi are what cause infections by invading body tissue, stealing nutrients from healthy cells, and releasing toxins some parasites kill healthy cells.
These micro-organisms readily infect the eyes, ears, mouth, genitals, and the skin itself. Some enter straight into the bloodstream.
Food poisoning occurs when pathogen (invading bacteria) enter the gastrointestinal tract, usually through contaminated food or water.
Most respiratory infections, including common colds, flu and mild forms of pneumonia, are caused by inhaling or ingesting viruses.
The urinary tract usually flushes out pathogens but is prone to infection when it is swollen, irritated, or obstructed. Ailments ranging from common bladder infections to serious kidney infections are usually bacterial.
Most infections stay localised but some can spread throughout the entire body.
Your doctor will do tests to determine where your infection is and it’s severity.
Minor infections are of short duration and usually clear up on their own, but serious infectious diseases require medical treatment.
Antibiotics are the usual treatment against bacterial infections however this course of action will not work against viral infections. In these cases the doctor can usually only relieve the symptoms and help the body to heal itself.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can relieve typical symptoms and speed recovery from minor infections.
Good nutrition, rest, and stress-reducing activities can help prevent and combat infection.
Herbal Treatments – Some herbs which are particularly helpful for infections are – aniseed, Echinacea, eucalyptus, garlic, goldenseal, horseradish, myrrh, pau d’arco, tea tree oil. (Go to our Herbal Page)
Aromatherapy – Try a warm compress on the affected area with geranium in it, for coughs and colds, try inhaling grapefruit oil, lemongrass, lime or lemon oil. For more information on the essential oils – see our aromatherapy section)
Homoeopathic Treatments – Pulsatilla is great for ridding the body of mucus or discharge – ask for the required dosages.
The most incredible diet in the world will not always protect you from every germ or bug going around, but it will definitely help your body cope with some of them.
Try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables – especially the foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits), vitamin E (wheatgerm, seeds and seed oils), vitamin A (red, yellow or orange coloured fruits and vegetables, or dark-green leafy vegetables). Selenium will be present in wheat, brown rice, poultry and low-fat dairy produce. You could eat more beans, fish, liver, brewer’s yeast and nuts, oysters, cheddar cheese, and lentils which are rich sources of zinc and cysteine.
Avoid refined foods, alcohol and caffeine.
Proper vaccinations need to be performed to prevent infections.
Be careful with meats and always keep them refrigerated – also wash hands before and after touching them.
Practice good personal hygiene.
When to seek further professional advice
you or your child develops a high fever
you have any of the symptoms listed above and they do not respond to treatments