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What are Common Risk Factors for Bacterial Infections?

Thursday 19 August 2021
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Understanding the Bacteria Around Us

II. Am I at Risk for a UTI?

III. Skin Infection Risk Factors

IV. What Causes Chest Infections?

Understanding the Bacteria Around Us

Bacterial infections can occur just about anywhere on the body. Millions of bacteria live all around us, so it is no surprise that they may invade various parts of our bodies.

Lots of bacteria are helpful in everyday bodily processes. They can help improve digestion and destroy disease-causing cells, but infectious bacteria can make us very sick. Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli are three common types of harmful bacteria. Your doctor will determine which antibiotic is right for you. You may be prescribed antibiotics like amoxicillinLevaquin (levofloxacin), or retapamulin cream

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing bacterial infections. Read on to learn about the situations and health conditions that may increase your risk of infection. [1] 

Am I at Risk for a UTI?

UTIs, or urinary tract infections, are one of the most common infections of the urinary system. UTIs can affect the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. Cystitis (an infection of the bladder) can occur when E. coli bacteria get into the urinary system. E. coli is typically found in the gastrointestinal system. E. coli can also cause an infection of the urethra when bacteria from the anus spread to the urethra. The following factors put you at a greater risk for UTIs:

Being female: Women have a shorter urethra than men, so bacteria does not have to travel as far to reach the bladder. This makes it easier for infections to occur in the urinary system.

a group of women sitting together

Birth control: Some birth control options like diaphragms and spermicidal agents may cause UTIs. Diaphragms fit inside the vagina to prevent sperm from passing through the cervix. They are used with a spermicidal, which can irritate the vagina and cause bacterial growth.

Sex: Being sexually active increases your risk of UTIs. Sexual activity introduces bacteria up the urethra and into the bladder.

As you can see, women are at a much higher risk of UTIs than men. Because these infections are common, several antibiotics are available to assist in symptoms and kill bacteria, including Macrobid (nitrofurantoin)Bactrim, and Monurol (fosfomycin). [2]

Skin Infection Risk Factors

All types of bacteria live on a person’s skin, so if your skin experiences an injury, harmful bacteria can enter the body. Streptococcus and Staphylococcus can cause cellulitis, leading to redness, swelling, and pain in the affected area. Abscesses are similar, but pus collects inside and out of the skin.

These conditions are often avoidable if you regularly wash your hands and practice proper hygiene. If you do experience a cut or wound, wash your injury properly to ensure that it does not become infected. Risk factors for skin infections include:

Athlete’s foot: Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection but leads to broken skin. Coming into contact with the fungus tinea pedis is common with athletes and those who use communal showers. Even though a fungus causes it, the broken skin can become susceptible to bacterial infection. [3] 

a female locker room

Diabetes: Patients with diabetes are more likely to experience skin problems than those without diabetes. Prolonged high blood sugar can cause poor circulation and nerve damage, making it more difficult for the body to heal wounds. These wounds are known as diabetic ulcers. [4] 

Creams like clotrimazole cream can help treat athlete’s foot. If you experience a bacterial infection due to diabetes, amoxicillin or Levaquin (levofloxacin) can stop bacteria from growing. 

What Causes Chest Infections?

Bacteria or viruses can cause chest infections. Pneumonia is one of the most common bacterial chest infections and can be incredibly dangerous if left untreated. These infections can pass from person to person, so it is important to stay isolated and clean your hands regularly. The following groups are more at risk:

People with a weakened immune system: If you are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatments, have had a recent organ transplant, or live with HIV, your immune system may not be as strong. This makes it easier for bacteria to grow and spread in the body, especially in the lungs.

an IV in a person’s hand

Smokers: Smoking tobacco increases your susceptibility to bacterial lung infections. The chemicals in cigarettes can damage the respiratory tract and cells, leading to an increased risk of infection.

Living with a chronic lung condition: If you live with a long-term lung condition like asthma or cystic fibrosis, you are at an increased risk of chest infections. Cystic fibrosis blocks the lung’s airways with mucus, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. [5]

If you are at risk for bacterial infections, it is essential to avoid triggering situations and talk to your doctor about maintaining your overall health.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.