Are you feeling under the weather and worried your symptoms may indicate an infection? Understanding common infection symptoms and seeking prompt medical attention can make a significant difference in your recovery. Whether it’s a bacterial or viral infection, knowing these warning signs empowers you to take proactive measures for your health. With the help of The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus, we can help you understand what causes bacterial and viral infections, four common infection symptoms, and when to visit our urgent care.
What Causes Infections?
Infections can make us feel miserable, but understanding what causes them can help us take preventative measures and get the proper treatment. An infection can be caused by a range of factors, including viruses and bacteria. While the symptoms of viral and bacterial infections can be similar, it helps to understand what causes both types of infection.
Good bacteria live in the body. For example, gut bacteria can help maintain a healthy digestive system. However, you can come into contact with harmful bacteria through contaminated food and water or poor hygiene practices. Bacteria and infections can also spread by contact with infected individuals, insect bites, contaminated surfaces, or open wounds. Bacterial infections occur when harmful bacteria enter the body and start multiplying. Common examples include strep throat, urinary tract infections, and bacterial pneumonia.
A virus is a tiny infectious agent that cannot replicate on its own and relies on host cells to reproduce. When a virus enters the body, it attaches to specific cells and injects its genetic material into them. The viral genetic material then takes control of the host cell, forcing it to produce new viral particles that infect other healthy cells. Viruses cause illnesses like the common cold, influenza, and COVID-19.
4 Common Infection Symptoms
There are a few telltale signs that may indicate an infection. By staying aware of these common infection symptoms, you’ll be better equipped to identify and address potential issues and seek medical care as soon as possible.
Fever is one of the most common infection symptoms, indicating that the body’s immune system is actively responding to pathogens. When the immune system detects the presence of a virus or bacteria, it releases chemicals called pyrogens. These chemicals act on the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Elevating the body’s temperature creates an inhospitable environment for the bacteria, allowing the immune system to help fight off the infection and inhibit bacterial growth.
2. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures located throughout the body that play a crucial role in the immune system. These nodes act as filters that trap and remove harmful substances, including bacteria and viruses. When an infection occurs in the body, nearby lymph nodes can become enlarged and tender. This enlargement is a sign that the immune system is actively fighting the infection and attempting to contain its spread.
Nausea can be a sign of both bacterial and viral infections due to their effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Both infections produce toxins that can directly irritate and inflame the stomach lining. This can disrupt normal digestive processes and lead to discomfort and nausea. If nausea is accompanied by other concerning infection symptoms, visit your closest urgent care for treatment.
4. Sore Throat
When the body is infected with bacteria or viruses, the mucous membranes lining the throat can become inflamed and irritated. In bacterial infections like strep throat, certain bacteria directly invade the throat tissues, leading to inflammation and discomfort. On the other hand, viruses, such as those causing the common cold or influenza, can infect the cells of the upper respiratory tract, including the throat, causing similar inflammation. The body’s immune response to the infection further contributes to the soreness.
When to Go to an Urgent Care
In some cases, infection symptoms can resolve on their own with proper rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medicines. However, certain situations may call for an urgent care visit to ensure prompt and appropriate treatment. Visit our urgent care if you experience the following symptoms:
- High Fever: If you or your child experiences a fever of 102°F or higher, it’s essential to seek medical attention, especially if the fever persists for more than a couple of days.
- Persistent Symptoms: If your symptoms worsen or fail to improve after a few days, it may be a sign of a more severe infection or complications that require medical evaluation.
- Difficulty Breathing: Breathing difficulties or persistent coughing can indicate a more severe respiratory infection and should be assessed by a healthcare professional.
Visit The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus for Compassionate Care
If you’re unsure about the nature of your infection symptoms, let the experts at The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus guide you toward a swift recovery. Simply walk into one of our three clinic locations in Topeka, KS. For added convenience, you can also check-in online to reduce your wait time or call your closest location with any questions. Our compassionate healthcare professionals are ready to provide the care and attention you need to overcome your infection and start feeling better sooner.