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As this general medical term indicates, a bacterial infection is caused by bad bacteria in the body. The standard medical treatment usually involves a dose of antibiotics. Bacterial infections are easily confused with the viral infections, which, as you will again clearly see from their name, have viral causes. These two types of infections share similar symptoms, so it is impossible for an ordinary person to tell them apart. Only a trained doctor can determine if an infection is bacterial or viral. They have to be skilled in distinguishing between bacterial and viral infections because only the former responds to antibiotics.

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The infection continues a long time

If an infection continues for more than a few weeks, it is appropriate to get checked by the doctor to see if it is a bacterial infection. Usually, viral infections do not continue for much longer than a couple of weeks. To make the diagnosis even more complicated sometimes what begins as a viral infection goes on to develop into a bacterial infection. If you have even the slightest doubt, consult your doctor. Through blood tests and cultures, doctors can diagnose which kind of infection the patient has developed.

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A fever that becomes more intense

Both bacterial and viral infections lead to fevers, but a key difference between them is that with viral infections the fever develops and then declines after a few days but in the case of a bacterial infection the fever may intensify. As a rule, bacterial infections produce fevers that are higher than those caused by viral infections. However, the viral flu may also cause a very high fever. Once again, the patient needs to get a competent medical diagnosis to know for certain which kind of infection they have.

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A fever but no signs of infection

A bacterial infection might give the patient a fever, but the doctor finds little trace of infection. A classic case is when a young child gets a bacterial urine tract infection. Doctors recognize that this illness is very hard to identify, but if it is not treated promptly, it could cause kidney damage. Therefore, it is highly recommended to have the child's urine tested in these situations. The younger the child happens to be, the greater the need for caution.

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Stiffness of the neck

This might be the sign of one of the most frightening of all the bacterial infections – meningitis. Even though in many cases the stiff neck is caused simply by poor posture for a certain period, parents need to be particularly alert if they see a young child in this condition. Sometimes they might also observe something is not right about the child's mental status. This is a potentially life-threatening situation that requires immediate medical attention. Hopefully, the concern proves unfounded, but there is everything to gain from erring on the safe side.

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Dehydration

Bacterial infections may lead to the patient becoming dehydrated if they fail to take their normal liquid intake. This is another area where parents need to be especially concerned about their children, and the younger they are, the greater care required to keep them well hydrated. Therefore, if a child seems to be drinking little and they do not pass urine more than three times in a 24-hour period take them for a medical checkup.

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Stomach upset

Everyone suffers from an upset stomach now and again, but a fever accompanies it there is a strong possibility that a bacterial infection causes this problem. One of the best-known of all the bacterial infections doctors classify as salmonella. You might be more familiar with it under its alternative names of food poisoning. If someone eats food that has gone rotten due to poor storage or it has become contaminated in some other way they might get this bacterial infection and suffer from an upset stomach

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A bacterial infection in the bloodstream

Sometimes a bacterial infection in any area of the body may lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream. This leads to the life-threatening illness called sepsis. Patients become feverish; they start to shake and suffer from very low blood pressure. They could end up falling into a coma. In the USA this is the leading cause of death of elderly people with almost a quarter of a million deaths each year. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to save lives.

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Headaches

This is another common sign of a bacterial infection, although obviously, headaches have many other causes such as dehydration or stress. Sometimes a bacterial infection causes a relatively mild headache that makes the patient feel uncomfortable, but they can function more or less normally. Only if a headache becomes more severe to a point where it seriously interferes with their regular functioning do they need to go to the doctor.

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Swelling of the lymph nodes

The lymph nodes are found under the arms, at the back of the neck and various other places on the body. When a bacterial infection develops, these nodes may become swelled as they try to fight off the bacterial attacks. While this is a normal bodily reaction and usually there is no cause for excessive concern this could also be the symptom of much more serious illness. Anyone who experiences this swelling should consult a doctor just to make sure there is no real reason for concern and to determine the best treatment course.

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Signs on the skin

Certain kinds of bacterial infection can also be detected through the skin problems they cause. Patients might notice blisters appear or they get a rash or some other kind of skin discoloration. However, a connection between a skin problem and a bacterial infection cannot be automatically assumed. For example, an allergy might cause a rash. Once again only a medical professional has the knowledge and testing tools to uncover the source of this problem.

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Bacterial infections of the eyes

It is quite common to get bacteria-related eye infections. The most frequently encountered is called conjunctivitis, although some prefer the popular name pinkeye. Redness in the eye characterizes it, and the patient might also experience discharges from the eyes, and a blurring of vision. Usually, this condition is easily treated with antibiotic eye drops.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.