On Sunday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and a tight chest and felt like I hadn’t slept in a week. The next day it worsened into a hacking cough and a few days later, I lost my voice. The doctor had told me I had a virus and the orders were to rest and to take over the counter products to help with congestion. 10 days later, I was back in the doctor’s office because things were not progressing in the right direction. The cough was the same, only thicker, more yellow and there was a low-grade fever. Was it still viral, or had it tripped into a bacterial infection?
I’ve had this thing for almost 3 weeks and I’m on my second round of antibiotics. While waiting to feel 100% better, I’ve wondered how many other people wonder what’s the difference between a viral infection and a bacterial infection, and how does it affect managing diabetes?
Bacteria vs Virus
Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that thrive in different environments, even in extremes of hot and cold. Some bacteria live in our intestinal tract and are very good for us because they help us break down food and help strengthen our immune system. Most bacteria is good for us, but some are potentially life-threatening causing common infections such as strep throat. But in researching this article, I was surprised to read that globally tuberculosis is the biggest cause of death from a bacterial infection.
For bacterial infections, doctors usually prescribe an antibiotic, but too often doctors prescribed an antibiotic when the patient had a virus, for which the antibiotic would not help.
Viruses require a living host – such as people, plants or animals – to survive and they need the host to multiply. Without a host, the virus cannot survive. When a virus enters the body, it invades the cells and takes over cell function, redirecting the cells to produce the virus.
An antibiotic does not work to kill a virus, the body must do the job of killing off the virus. The human body launches a sophisticated defense response through our white blood cells, specifically T and B lymphocytes. B lymphocytes bind to a virus and stop it from replicating.
T cells (important in what causes diabetes) act as guard dogs that raise an alarm when a virus is detected. Some of the guard dogs go after the invader, teaming with the B cells and others memorize the virus to help build an “acquired immunity” meaning that in the future, the guard dogs will recognize the virus before it has time to take action in .
That feeling of extreme fatigue is actually our body hard at work to fight off a virus. Your job is to make sure the guard dogs are rested and well fed. The doctor will tell you there is no prescription is necessary, but that rest is essential.
In either case of bacterial or viral infections, diabetes requires doctor’s review. As people living with diabetes, our immune system is weak and a virus or bacterial infection can gain control very rapidly. At some point, my virus actually gained strength and I could not keep up with the invasion, so it turned into a bacterial infection, too. At that point, I needed the help of an antibiotic to boost my defenses and get rid of virus and the bacteria.
Best defense against getting a virus is a flu shot, and best defense against getting a bacterial infection is plenty of rest, eating well and some exercise.
Published On: November 21, 2014