What Is a Chronic Infection?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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A chronic infection refers to a case that does not respond to treatment, that lasts for weeks, or that keeps returning despite treatment. In addition, a chronic infection can afflict virtually any system in the human body such as the urinary, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and circulatory system. Examples of chronic infections include chronic ear infections, chronic urinary tract infections, and chronic skin infections.

Treatment for a chronic infection may include antibiotics. If an infection is determined to be related to a bacterial organism, the treatment of choice may be antibiotics. If, however, the infection is related to a viral organism, antibiotics will not eliminate the infection. The physician needs to evaluate the infection and its source before prescribing antibiotics to avoid the occurrence of a resistant infection in the future.

A continuing infection can be the result of a depressed immune system, stress, or a highly virulent strain of bacteria. In addition, a chronic infection can occur when the prescribed antibiotics are not strong enough or when the patient fails to complete his entire prescription. To determine which antibiotics are appropriate for certain infections, the physician might sometimes order a medical test called a culture and sensitivity test to determine if a particular organism will be sensitive to a specific antibiotic.


Certain medications can also contribute to a long-running infection. For example, a chronic urinary tract infection may be caused by urinary retention. When urine is forced to stay in the bladder for prolonged periods of time, bacteria can grow and cause an infection. Medications that can contribute to urinary retention include antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, and prescription pain relievers.

When a physician tries to determine if the patient has an acute infection or a chronic infection, he will take a few factors into consideration. One of these factors is the time line of the infection. If the infection lasts for more than a few weeks, chances are that it is chronic. In addition, if the infection is especially resistant to antibiotics or other treatments, it may be determined to be chronic.

Generally, treatment for chronic and acute infections are similar. One of the differences, however, may be the length of time that the patient receives treatment. For acute infections, antibiotics are generally prescribed for 10 days. For chronic infections, a double course of antibiotics may be recommended, or different types of antibiotics may be given back to back. Antibiotics can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, however, the physician can recommend remedies to reduce the risk of side effects.


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Post 4

@seag47 – I'm guessing that your brother must have allergies. I have lived with pretty severe allergies since childhood, and they caused me to develop many sinus infections.

Once I finally found an antihistamine that worked for me, I stopped getting infections. The drug kept me from sneezing and getting congested, which had been keeping my sinuses irritated constantly.

If you think your brother could remember to take an antihistamine every day, it would be worth a try. If he finds one that keeps his allergies at bay, then it will keep him from getting chronic sinus infections.

Post 3

My brother seems to keep a sinus infection year round. He starts out taking antibiotics, but he either forgets to take them all or stops when he feels better.

I have told him that this is really bad, because the infection can come back even stronger. He doesn't listen to me or the doctor, so I am thinking that antibiotics are not the answer.

Does anyone know of a good way to prevent sinus infections? If he can keep from getting one to start with, he won't have to worry about antibiotics.

He is in pretty good health. He eats a well-rounded diet and works out, so I know it's not his immune system's fault.

Post 2

@OeKc05 – Cranberries have the power to prevent urinary tract infections. They may also help you get rid of an existing one.

They contain something that keeps bacteria from being able to cling to your urinary tract. Cranberry juice works great, and you can also take cranberry supplements.

Also, you need to be sure that you are drinking lots of water when you are infected and staying hydrated even when you are not. Water flushes out the bacteria, and when alternated with cranberry juice, those bacteria don't stand much of a chance!

Post 1

I am on both painkillers and antihistamines, so this is probably why I seem to keep a urinary tract infection for most of the year. However, I need my medicine, so simply not taking it is not an option for me.

Does anyone know if there are other steps I can take to get rid of my infection and prevent it from coming back? Antibiotics don't seem to work for very long, though they do get rid of it initially. I can't seem to stop getting infected.

My doctor doesn't seem too concerned with the frequency of my infections. I suppose he wants to keep me coming back to him often.

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