Want to know a fun fact? Despite the bad reputation bacteria gets, you actually need it to survive. Our skin, for example, plays host to millions of “good” bacteria, which keeps our skin healthy and keeps the “bad” bacteria from coming in.
Skin infection, however, is a definite sign that bad bacteria is in the house, localized on your skin. Not just bacteria, but fungi and viruses too. Generally speaking, infection happens when an unfriendly foreign species comes to play house in a host organism—namely, you. These foreign species then use the host’s resources to multiply and grow, usually at the host’s own health and expense. They also get in the way of normal functioning, and may lead to a chronic wounds, gangrene, loss of an infected limb or even death.
Causes of Common Infections
Skin infections normally stem from skin breakage caused by injuries and allergies, but what really causes them? The causes of skin infections may be generally divided into these groups:
Bacteria. Bacterial skin infection happens when harmful bacteria proliferate in your skin under favorable conditions that allow them to multiply. These “bad” bacteria produce harmful chemicals that act as poison throughout the body. Some common bacterial infections are:
Fungi. Fungal skin infections arise from a weak immune system and poor hygiene. You can catch them by coming in direct contact with fungi-infested environments. If fungi like tinea and candidasis (both common sources of fungi-related infections) find themselves living in your skin tissue under favorable conditions, this will encourage them to grow and spread. Some common fungal infections are
- Jock itch
- Athlete’s foot
- Yeast infection
Viruses. Viruses are infectious agents that cannot grow without a host organism’s cell. They use the host’s cells to replicate themselves and proliferate throughout the body. Some common viral skin infections are:
- Molluscum Contagiosum
Complications. Skin infections may also arise as a complication to conditions such as diabetes.
Contracting a Skin Infection
Skin infections may be contracted through a number of ways, usually depending on what is causing the infection. Here are some general situations where you run the risk of contracting a skin infection:
- Exposure to an unhygienic or contaminated environment
- Coming into contact with infected persons and animals or contaminated objects
- Weak immune system
- Poor hygiene
- Genetic predisposition
Again, there are many types of skin infections arising from different causes and sources, but there are general symptoms that may clue you in that you may be suffering from a skin infection:
- Skin ulcers
- Skin inflammation or dermatitis
- Breaks in the skin
Make sure that you take note of other symptoms that you may be feeling to narrow down the probable cause. You may also feel feverish and a localized or overall discomfort, which is typical of bacterial or viral infections, as this is the body’s way of fighting infections.
Skin infection may range from superficial to severe, and there is an almost equal range in treatment options. The important factor in treating the infection is determining if it is localized or if there is systemic involvement throughout your body.
Antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually the best response for bacterial infections. Since bacteria are complete living organisms on their own, an antibiotics’ function is to get in the way of important processes that keep bacteria alive and self-sustaining. The different kinds of antibiotics for skin infections are:
- Topical antibiotics, effective in treating superficial and secondary skin infections.
- Systemic antibiotics, for skin infections accompanied by fever, hypothermia, tachycardia or hypotension. It’s recommended that you first consult a doctor to make sure what particular of systemic antibiotic you need
- Prophylactic antibiotics are usually used following surgery, by getting rid of potential bacteria carriers and thus preventing bacteria to proliferate
Ant-fungal medicine. If your skin infection is caused by fungi, you may be prescribed anti-fungal medicine that may be taken orally or applied directly to the area of infection.
Anti-viral remedies. There are specific medications against specific viruses which may be prescribed to you
Some viral skin infections may be physically removed using chemicals, burning by laser or electrical current, freezing (cryotherapy) or cutting off by surgical means. Note that manual removal of skin infections may cause discomfort and leave scars. Remedies using chemicals typically harmful to skin must be used with discretion.
Follow your doctor’s instructions. It’s important that you follow your doctor’s instruction with the day-to-day treatment of your skin infection. Procedures on how to clean the infection, changing bandages (if there are any) and application of medication should be followed carefully and precisely. Failing to do so may lead to a longer recovery time, and no one wants that.
Wear light clothing. Wear fabrics that allow your skin to breathe and will not irritate your infection.
Keep it dry. Remember, bacteria and fungi love damp places, so keep the area of your skin infection comfortably dry.
Bottoms up. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out the toxins in your body and keeps your skin healthy.
Boost your immune system. Eat food that will help your immune system to fight the infectious organism and to build up your resistance. Food rich in Zinc, vitamins A, C and E help make your skin healthy. For fungal infections, add natural fungicides like garlic to your diet to fight the infection.
Most skin infections can be prevented. Here are some tips to stop infection from ever developing in your body.
Don’t contaminate others. Or conversely, keep away from people who you know are infected. Wear pads over skin infections and avoid touching unnecessarily.
Hydrate and drink plenty of water
First aid. Properly treating wounds or any breaks in your skin prevents infectious agents from entering your system. Leaving wounds open or unattended makes a perfect breeding ground and an entrance for bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Good hygiene. Most fungal and bacterial infections can be prevented by good hygiene. Washing your hands, and keeping your personal items and utensils clean, are some of the many things you can do to prevent introducing infectious agents in your body.
Clean environment. Dirty, dank and damp environments are the places where fungi and bacteria love breeding. Maintaining a clean environment reduces the chances of you picking them up. If you do find yourself in a public area such as a gym or a public shower stall, wear flip-flops and wash your hands after using publicly-used appliances.
Keep in mind that skin infections have a variety of causes, so be sure to identify your other symptoms to ensure that you are getting the proper treatment and medication.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of a skin infection.