Infections: Bacterial vs Viral

Infections: Bacterial vs Viral


Young children are prone to a variety of infections and get sick more often than adults because they have not yet developed immunity to the infectious agents that cause childhood diseases. School-aged children are also very prone to catching contagious diseases from their peers at daycare or in school. There are vaccines available to prevent some childhood infections and their complications. Many of these immunizations are given in the first year to protect infants against serious health problems, but vaccines are offered at different times throughout childhood. Vaccines can protect against both bacterial and viral infections.


Bacterial Infections 

Bacterial infections are generally easier to treat than viral infections because bacteria are susceptible to antibiotic medications and viruses are not. Bacteria are free-living single-celled organisms, while viruses are not self-sufficient; they depend on the cells in our body to reproduce. Some examples of childhood infections caused by bacterial agents include pertussis (whooping cough), strep throat, bacterial meningitis, bacterial pneumonia and bacterial ear infections. Bacterial infections are usually treatable with antibiotics. However, some bacteria are resistant to certain types of antibiotics. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is an example of a common infectious bacterium that has developed resistance to several antibiotic medications and recently become a public health threat.

Viral Infections 

Some common viral infections of childhood include the chicken pox, mononucleosis (mono), influenza, the common cold, and RSV. Although sometimes antiviral medications are given in some cases, this is not a routine occurrence. Antiviral medications do not cure a viral infection like antibiotics may cure a bacterial infection, but they generally slow down the replication of the virus. Most of the time, the best treatment of a childhood viral infection is to treat the symptoms that may arise and let the infection play its course. For example, diseases like the chicken pox will go away on their own after a few weeks, but the blisters caused by the disease can be treated with topical lotions to reduce itching.

Other Infections 

Fungal infections and parasitic infections are not as common as bacterial and viral infections. Fungal infections such as ringworm and thrush may occur in young children. Parasitic diseases, such as malaria, are more common in children in undeveloped countries around the world.

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