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Everything You Need to Know About Infection Prevention

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

Exposure to disease-causing microorganisms or pathogens can have a domino effect that affects public health. The COVID-19 pandemic is clear evidence of this effect.

Anyone can contract infections from all types of environments. However, most infections are easily preventable depending on many factors. A strong one is impeccable personal hygiene.

For example, research has shown how handwashing prevents many infections, including the contraction of multiresistant pathogens.

Another excellent way to control infection is improving your immune response by choosing the right food to include in your diet.

As the International Infection Prevention Week kicks off, let’s look closely into practical measures to ensure protection against infection.

What Is an Infection?

Infections are the transmission and multiplication of disease-causing microorganisms in your body. These pathogenic microorganisms include viruses, bacteria, fungi, and certain types of proteins.

Every pathogen has a specific mode of entry into the body. Some are airborne, and others can be acquired from the food or beverage you consume.

When an infection occurs, your immune system prepares an appropriate response. In the process of fighting off the invading germ, your temperature increases, some areas in your body get inflamed, your appetite changes, and pain can be felt in some body parts.

Common Infectious Diseases

Infections can be seasonal, but they can also be consistent throughout the year. Therefore, knowing which diseases are common in your areas and when they usually become prevalent is another excellent way to protect yourself. 

Check out some of the most common infectious diseases you could be vulnerable to.

  • Chickenpox
  • Common cold
  • Diphtheria
  • Giardiasis
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Meningitis
  • Mumps
  • Pneumonia
  • Salmonellosis
  • STDs
  • Shingles
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Pertussis 

How Do You Know if Your Body Is Fighting an Infection?

Different types of infections can have other signs and symptoms. However, they also share similar effects as the immune system provides a typical response to infection.

Here are symptoms and indicators that your body is fighting an infection.

  • Fever
  • Fatigues or tiredness
  • Headache
  • Increased urination
  • Nausea
  • Pain and body aches
  • Redness or swelling in specific areas
  • Swollen lymph nodes 

These symptoms are caused by the responses of the white blood cells to the infection. This is also why your doctor will order a Complete Blood Count (CBC) Blood Test to check if the white blood cells are elevated. If that’s the case, then an infection is confirmed.

6 Practical Ways to Prevent an Infection

Infection control and prevention start from making the right personal choices. Decades of research have laid down the foundation for safety measures against well-known diseases.

While the phrase “Prevention is better than cure” sounds like a cliché, it remains relevant, especially as infections are rampant nowadays. Therefore, if you genuinely want to be healthy and well-protected from diseases, make sure to exercise the following.

1.      Wash Your Hands Properly

Handwashing is the keystone of infection control.

It is a standard protocol to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds in healthcare. Rubbing your hands in the process removes not just dirt and grease. It also kills disease-causing microorganisms sticking on your hands.

This simple measure prevents the transmission of infection. Hence, it is highly promoted not just in hospitals, schools, and workplaces, but most importantly, at home.  

2.      Cover Your Mouth When You Cough or Sneeze

Airborne transmission of bacteria and viruses is spread through coughing or sneezing. Likewise, the respiratory droplets bring the pathogens and can be picked up or inhaled by others.

One example is the transmission of the influenza virus. If you breathe in from infected individuals, your risk of developing the infection increases significantly. Therefore, it only makes sense to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to protect others and yourself.

3.      Avoid Sharing Personal Items

There are several materials that you should never share with other people. That includes utensils, handkerchiefs, cosmetics, towels, toothbrushes, deodorant, underwear, shavers, etc. Basically, any item that goes directly or too close to potential entry points of pathogens.

Sharing these items only increases your risk of different types of infections.

4.      Practice Safe Cooking and Dining Habits

Food harbors plenty of parasites. Raw meat, for example, is a known host for parasites like Toxoplasma gondii that cause toxoplasmosis.

Moreover, serving undercooked or poorly prepared meals is a gateway to infections like hepatitis A, salmonellosis, listeria, and typhoid fever.

To keep your food safe, make sure you are preparing food with utmost care and cleanliness. 

Furthermore, always ensure that you perform proper hand washing before eating. Finally, avoid picking food that fell off the ground and be cautious with the type of food you eat.

5.      Protect Yourself Sexually

Safe sex is a significant measure to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, using contraceptives and getting tested for STDs can protect you from the life-threatening or life-long effects of infections like gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, and chlamydia.

6.      Get Vaccinated

Vaccines have been around for decades, and they significantly lower the risks and adverse effects of many types of infection.

To keep yourself protected from diseases, get the necessary vaccines available in your local health unit.

Some of the vaccines you can take include shots against influenza, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, varicella, measles, mumps, rubella, HPV, and COVID-19.

Foods That Help Fight Infection

Your immune system ensures that any invading microorganism is extinguished from the body.

The white blood cells and other immune cells are produced and released in the bloodstream to hunt and kill off the pathogens. 

Other cells perform several jobs like the memory T cells, which accumulate the necessary data to recognize the same pathogen during reinfection.  

Therefore, strengthening your immune system will keep you further away from infection. 

Consider including the following foods in your diet containing antibacterial, antiviral, and other properties that improve your immunity.

  • Leafy greens
  • Citrus fruits
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Apples
  • Cranberries
  • Fish
  • Yogurt 

The Bottom Line

Understanding how infection occurs is also a crucial step to protect yourself from diseases. Knowing how and where you can get these pathogens will allow you to take the relevant precautionary measures.

Nonetheless, the best way to prevent infection is to practice proper hygiene and keep yourself healthy through a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.

Consult your doctor at least once a year and get the necessary lab tests for infections to monitor your health. 

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