How to recognize signs of infection

There are two basic types of infection. Localized infection is normally seen when the skin is broken and a wound or cut becomes infected. If the infection is carried throughout the body in the bloodstream it is systemic.

Recognizing the signs of infection and knowing how to treat it can prevent a small localized infection from becoming a much more serious problem.

Look for a cut or wound in the skin. The skin normally protects our bodies from bacteria, viruses and fungi, but a break in the skin opens the door to infection.

Check the cut or wound to see if the skin is warm or hot to the touch. Determine if the cut or wound is causing pain.

Look for redness or red streaks around the injury, swelling or a discharge of thick yellow, green or grey-white pus from the wound or cut. This indicates the presence infection fighting white blood cells.

Wash the wound daily with plain running water. Don't use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or another antiseptic without consulting a doctor because these chemicals can irritate the wound.

Apply a disinfectant or triple-antibiotic to the wound twice a day.

Cover the wound with a non-stick sterile gauze and adhesive tape to protect from rubbing against clothes or if it might get dirty.

Check the wound daily to prevent a systemic infection.

See a doctor if the localized infection has not healed in three to four days.

Watch for fever, shaking, chills, fatigue, confusion, joint aches or rapid pulse as these may be signs a localized infection has become systemic.

Pay close attention to eye infections. The eyes are a portal for infection to enter the body and attack vital organs like the brain. Eye infections can cause permanent damage or loss of sight.

Check the wounds of small children and the elderly very closely to prevent a systemic infection as they are more susceptible to complications from infections.

Be extremely cautious when a person with diabetes, blood disorders, kidney failure or HIV/AIDS develops an infection. They have compromised immune systems and therefore may display fewer symptoms.

Go to the doctor immediately if there are any signs of systemic infection or a localized infection is slow in healing. Systemic infections can cause severe damage if left untreated and can be fatal.