Infectious diseases can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or other organisms that enter the body in various ways. Because the disease can be easily passed from person to person, it is relatively easy to spread disease outbreaks within a community. To protect yourself from infectious diseases, the adage “prevention is better than cure” applies here. With just a few steps and healthy habits, you can avoid germs and disease.
Avoiding Infectious Diseases
Washing hands. Hand hygiene has a vital role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Pathogens (such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi) are easily transferred from contaminated surfaces to the skin, from there to the eyes and mouth where they gain access to the body. Thus, hand washing is one of the first reliable steps to prevent the entry of infectious agents.
Wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, sneezing, blowing your nose, and when you touch body fluids.
Wash hands before and after handling or handling food.
When washing your hands, use soap and warm water to wet your hands up to your wrists and scrub your skin for at least 20 seconds or so.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based antiseptic gel and rub from fingertips to wrists to remove pathogens.
Do not touch the face, eyes and nose. People tend to touch their faces several times a day. This is when the infectious agent on the hands gains access to the body. Since the skin does not allow the transfer of pathogens into the body, the eyes and mucous membranes in the nose and mouth can give way.
In addition to keeping your hands clean, try not to touch your face, even with clean hands.
Avoid direct contact between palms and face, and use a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
If you don’t have a tissue, cover your mouth or nose with your elbow. Throw the used tissue in the trash and then wash your hands.
Immunize on time. Vaccination is a preventive measure that helps avoid or reduce disease caused by infectious pathogens. Vaccinations work by stimulating the body’s immune response against a specific pathogenic agent and if you are exposed to a pathogen, your immune system can fight it more effectively.
Take adult and childhood immunizations on time and keep accurate vaccination records for all family members at home to ensure all have the latest immunizations.
Because vaccines are designed to activate the immune system to recognize specific pathogens, some vaccines may cause minor symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches, that last for a day or two.
Some vaccinations require injections (such as tetanus and polio) at certain intervals to maintain immunity.
Rest at home. When you are exposed to an infectious disease, you must keep other people from being exposed to the pathogen and spreading the disease to them. While some infectious diseases don’t spread easily from person-to-person contact, there are some that do require you to stay home when you’re sick.
If you are in public, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing (not with your hands) to avoid spreading airborne pathogens and transferring germs with your hands.
Wash your hands frequently and clean shared surfaces if you are sick to minimize germ transfer.
Prepare and store food safely. Some pathogens can be transferred to the body through food (called disease or food-borne pathogens). Pathogens that gain access to the body through the food consumed will multiply and cause disease. Therefore, you must prepare and store all food properly.
Prepare food responsibly by limiting cross-contamination. Raw food should not be prepared on the same surface as cooked food to avoid transfer of pathogens.
Clean the table surface regularly and make sure it is kept clean and dry. Pathogens can thrive in wet environments.
Wash hands before and after handling food. You should also wash your hands when handling different materials (for example, from handling raw materials to cooked food).
Food should be stored at safe temperatures (in the refrigerator if necessary) and discarded if quality is in question. Changes in color and texture and a strange smell are signs that the food has gone stale.
Hot foods should be eaten after cooking and if they must be stored, either kept hot (as in a buffet) or refrigerated as soon as possible to prevent pathogens from multiplying.
Practice safe sex and don’t share personal items. Sexually transmitted diseases are spread through bodily fluids that touch the genitals, mouth, and eyes. Practice safe sex to limit the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Always protect yourself with a condom or dental dam during sexual intercourse, especially if you don’t have only one partner.
Don’t have sex if you or your partner have sore mouth (blisters) or genital warts. This can lead to an incurable spread of herpes.
Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases before and after having sex with a new partner to get a clear idea of your condition.
Travel wisely. Be aware of the increased risk of infection when traveling. Some infections may be more common where you visit than where you live.
Talk to your doctor about the important vaccinations you should get before your trip. This allows you to build your immunity and be better prepared to deal with local pathogens present in your destination.
Wash your hands often when you travel to avoid getting germs into your body through your hands.
Protect yourself from infections carried by vectors, such as mosquitoes, by taking precautions, for example by sleeping under mosquito nets, using insect spray, and wearing long-sleeved clothing.
Understanding and Treating Infectious Diseases
Know the various types of infectious diseases. You should know what intermediaries can spread the infection. This can help you manage risk factors.
Bacteria are the most common infectious agents. Bacteria can be spread through body fluids and food. Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that use the human body as a place to reproduce.
Viruses are pathogens that cannot live outside their host. Viruses that enter the body will hijack your body’s cells to multiply and spread to nearby cells.
Fungi are simple, plant-like organisms that make your body their home.
Parasites are living organisms that hijack the host’s body and use its resources to thrive.
Treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. Antibiotics are drugs that fight bacterial infections. Antibiotics work by immobilizing or killing bacterial cells and thereby speeding up the destruction of bacteria by the immune system.
Use antibiotic ointment for small infected wounds. Signs of an infected wound include redness, swelling, warmth, and pain. Do not use antibiotic ointment for deep wounds that are bleeding profusely. Seek medical attention if your wound doesn’t stop bleeding.
For systemic bacterial infections, see your doctor or other healthcare provider and ask if you should take oral antibiotics.
It is important to know that antibiotics cannot cure or treat viral infections, such as colds or flu. Doctors can diagnose bacterial or viral infections and provide appropriate treatment.
Take antibiotics only when ordered. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them (such as if you have a virus) will increase the bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics.
Treat infections caused by viruses. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics, but there are some antiviral medications that can be used for certain viruses. Some viral infections can be treated with home remedies (such as rest and adequate fluids).
Some drugs called antiviral or antiretroviral drugs can fight certain viruses by paralyzing their ability to reproduce the DNA in your body’s cells.
Some viral infections, like the common cold, just need to be treated for symptoms to make you more comfortable. The immune system can fight the virus as long as you have good immunity and get enough rest and nutrition.
Many diseases caused by viruses can be avoided by vaccination. Therefore, try to get your immunizations on time.
Learn how to treat a yeast infection. Some yeast infections can be treated with medications that help get rid of the fungus and clear up the infection. However, there are a number of pathogenic fungi that cause infection and only a doctor can diagnose and provide proper treatment.
Some fungal infections can be treated with ointments if the infected area is on your skin (such as toenail fungus).
Very serious and life-threatening fungal infections are treated with oral medications or injections.
Infection with several types of pathogenic fungi such as histoplasmosis , blastomycosis , coccidioidomycosis , and paracoccidioidomycosis can be life threatening.
Learn how to treat parasitic infections. As the name implies, parasites are organisms that “hijack” your body’s resources to live, grow, and reproduce in your body. Parasite refers to a variety of pathogenic agents from worms to microscopic cells.
Many parasites can be transferred into the body through contaminated food or water (such as hookworms), while others can be transferred through broken skin/wounds (such as malaria through mosquito bites).
You should not drink water from unfiltered or boiled natural sources as it may contain parasites.
Some parasitic infections can be treated with oral or injectable medications.
Doctors can diagnose a parasitic infection based on certain symptoms and tests, then treat it properly.