Bacteria and Virus

Many parents are naturally confused about bacterial and viral illnesses. It is important to understand the difference between these two words because my treatment plan will be based on the type of infection I suspect.

Bacterial infections cause illnesses like : strep throat, ear infections, skin infections such as impetigo, pneumonia or meningitis. Each infection can range from less serious to life threatening. Although some bacterial infections will go away on their own, with the use of drugs like antibiotics, recovery is quicker and complications are reduced. For this reason, I use various methods (lab tests, physical examination, and your child’s history) to determine if your child could have a bacterial infection.

The use of antibiotics should not be taken lightly. Some children suffer reactions to antibiotics. While most side effects are annoying at worst, severe allergic reactions can be life threatening. Let me know if your child has allergies to any medications.

If I suggest and prescribe antibiotics it is critical that your child take them for the length of time I indicate.

Viral infections are extremely common. Most of us will get several viral infections every year. (See video on virus) The average child has 5 to 10 illnesses each year. Symptoms of viral illnesses can mimic bacterial illnesses. It can be difficult to separate and determine which infection your child has. Yet, viruses are less likely to cause serious complications.

Viruses are not affected by antibiotics. Certain medications can help some viral illnesses and several drugs are able to control and even kill some viruses. Even though most viral illnesses must run their course, I will probably be able to substantially reduce unpleasant symptoms and prevent complications from secondary bacterial infections.

If you suspect a bacterial infection, but your child is comfortable, I can examine your child during office hours. If there is a fever persisting more than 48 hours, difficulty breathing, pain, decrease in awareness of their surroundings, persist vomiting, or bloody diarrhea, you should call me or go to Children’s emergency room.

Last reviewed April 30, 2010