Bacteria Overview of Bacteria Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms. They are among the earliest known life forms on earth. There are thousands of different kinds of bacteria, and they live in every conceivable... read more are microscopic, single-celled organisms. Only some bacteria cause disease in people. Other bacteria live inside the intestinal tract, genitourinary tract, or on the skin without causing harm. Some bacteria are even thought to help keep people healthy.
Did You Know...
The most common bacterial infections among children are skin infections (including impetigo Impetigo and Ecthyma Impetigo is a superficial skin infection that leads to the formation of scabby, yellow-crusted sores and, sometimes, small blisters filled with yellow fluid. It is caused by Staphylococcus... read more ), ear infections Overview of Middle Ear Infections in Young Children Middle ear infection is infection of the space immediately behind the eardrum. Middle ear infections (otitis media) may occur in older children and adults (see Otitis Media (Acute)) but are... read more , and throat infections (strep throat Sore Throat Sore throat is pain in the back of the throat. A sore throat can be very painful and is usually worsened by swallowing. Many people with a sore throat refuse to eat or drink. Sometimes pain... read more ). These and many other less common bacterial disorders are treated similarly in adults and children and are discussed elsewhere. Other infections occur at all ages but have specific considerations in children. Several severe bacterial infections are preventable by routine immunization Childhood Vaccination Schedules Vaccination protects children against many infectious diseases. Vaccines contain either noninfectious components of bacteria or viruses or whole forms of these organisms that have been weakened... read more early in childhood.
Risk of bacterial infections in children
Certain children are at particular risk of bacterial infections.
High-risk children include
Infants younger than 3 months
Children who have no spleen
Children who have an immune system disorder
Children who have cancer
Children who have not had recommended vaccinations
Diagnosis of Bacterial Infections in Children
Tests of blood, body fluids, or tissue samples
Sometimes doctors diagnose bacterial infections by the typical symptoms they cause. Usually, however, bacteria must be identified in samples of tissue, blood, or body fluids, such as urine, pus, or cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes bacteria from these samples can be recognized under a microscope Staining and Examination Using a Microscope Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Doctors suspect an infection based on the person's symptoms, physical examination results,... read more or identified with rapid detection tests such as tests that look for genetic material Tests That Detect Genetic Material in Microorganisms Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Doctors suspect an infection based on the person's symptoms, physical examination results,... read more from certain bacteria. Usually, however, they are too few or too small to see, so doctors must try to grow (culture Culture of Microorganisms Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Doctors suspect an infection based on the person's symptoms, physical examination results,... read more ) them in the laboratory. It typically takes 24 to 48 hours to culture the bacteria.
Cultures can also be used to test the susceptibility Testing a Microorganism's Susceptibility and Sensitivity to Antimicrobial Drugs Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Doctors suspect an infection based on the person's symptoms, physical examination results,... read more of particular bacteria to various antibiotics. The results can help a doctor determine which drug to use in treating an infected child.
Prevention of Bacterial Infections in Children
Many bacterial infections in children can be prevented by following the recommended vaccination schedule Childhood Vaccination Schedules Vaccination protects children against many infectious diseases. Vaccines contain either noninfectious components of bacteria or viruses or whole forms of these organisms that have been weakened... read more . Many viral infections (such as measles Measles Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that causes various cold-like symptoms and a characteristic rash. Measles is caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, hacking cough... read more , polio Polio Polio is a highly contagious, sometimes fatal enterovirus infection that affects nerves and can cause permanent muscle weakness, paralysis, and other symptoms. Polio is caused by a virus and... read more , hepatitis A Hepatitis A Acute hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis A virus and that lasts less than 6 months. Hepatitis A is usually spread when people ingest something that has... read more , and hepatitis B Hepatitis B, Acute Acute hepatitis B is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus and that lasts from a few weeks up to 6 months. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood or other... read more ) can also be prevented with routine immunization.
Treatment of Bacterial Infections in Children
Sometimes also surgery
Antibiotics Overview of Antibiotics Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections. They are not effective against viral infections and most other infections. Antibiotics either kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing... read more are drugs used to treat bacterial infections. There are many different antibiotics. Each one is effective only on certain bacteria, although some are effective against a wider range of bacteria than others. Most often, antibiotics alone can eliminate a bacterial infection. However, when an infection has created a large collection of pus, people sometimes also need surgery to drain the pus. Such infections include abscesses Abdominal Abscesses An abscess is a pocket of pus, usually caused by a bacterial infection. Most people have constant abdominal pain and a fever. Computed tomography or another imaging test can distinguish an abscess... read more and joint infections Infectious Arthritis Infectious arthritis is infection in the fluid and tissues of a joint usually caused by bacteria but occasionally by viruses or fungi. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi may spread through the bloodstream... read more .
Doctors may treat certain potentially serious childhood infections with antibiotics before they have the culture results. When results are obtained, the antibiotics are continued or changed as needed. If no bacteria are found, antibiotics may be stopped.