What is the Relationship Between Infection and Inflammation?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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When the body is injured, it calls upon its defenses to protect it by a process called inflammation. When bacteria or viruses attack the body, it causes an infection. This process which contaminates the body can cause injury by harming its various tissues. If there was no connection between infection and inflammation, the body would not fight the foreign material attacking it. Since inflammation also jump-starts healing, if it did not occur, the infection could run rampant, causing more damage and destruction inside the body. This could lead to further injury or permanent damage to tissues.

Microorganisms, also referred to as pathogens, can attack and multiply inside the body, bringing about an infection. General symptoms such as all-over pain and fevers occur when an infection is widespread. If bacteria or a virus enters the body in a localized area such as a cut, inflammation of the cut and surrounding area can occur.

Set in motion by the body's immune system, inflammation is a response to maintain the body's health. Characterized by reddening and tenderness, the area infected also swells as a warning that there is something wrong. By creating more fluid in the area, inflammation sets the healing process in motion while providing protection from further harm. This is achieved by sending more white blood cells to the area. These cells, also known as leukocytes, are transported through the blood. Fighting off the invading infection is the primary job of white blood cells.


Infection and inflammation, the problem and its ensuing solution, can be acute or chronic in nature. When its beginning is quick and without warning, and the symptoms are sudden but do not last a long time, infection and inflammation are considered acute. A longstanding bout with either process is considered chronic. Prolonged presence of infection or inflammation increases the possibility of complications.

Some health conditions, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Lyme disease may expose the body to infections by compromising its defenses. Termed autoimmune diseases, these illnesses can cause widespread infection and inflammation. This occurs because the immune system processes get mixed up and assault normal tissues instead of the pathogens.

Treatment of infection and inflammation includes managing both the pathogen and its resulting symptoms. Antibiotics, for example, are commonly used to deal with an infection process. Compression wrapping of the affected area helps minimize inflammation or the progression of swelling to prevent the excess fluid buildup from impeding blood flow. Using both treatments in combination helps maximize the body's chance for recovery.


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Post 9

@golf07 – I had no idea there was such a thing as anti-inflammatory foods! Does this also mean they help prevent infection? I would think they would have to, since inflammation occurs as a result of infection, right?

I need to start eating blueberries and broccoli more often if this is true. Last summer, I had two sinus infections and strep throat twice, so I stayed sick for about three months. Anything I can do to boost my immune system would be great, because I don't want another year like last one!

I didn't know green tea warded off inflammation, but I have heard it has many health benefits. I'm sure that I should start drinking it now to prevent getting sick so much in the coming months.

Post 8

I had a mysterious infection last summer. It made the lymph nodes around my jawline and ears inflamed, and it made me feel terrible all over.

I had no sore throat, but one side of my throat felt extra dry. My neck was sore to the touch. I didn't know what was going on, but it happened on a weekend, and no doctors were open but those at the hospital, which I couldn't afford to visit.

My fever was only 99, so I decided to wait until Monday to see if I got better. I knew I had some type of infection, because of the inflammation. I took some anti-inflammatory medicine, and that seemed to help, because by Monday morning, the fever was gone and the swelling had begun to go down.

Post 7

@StarJo – Strep throat is the worst! However, it is one of the most obvious links between infection and inflammation.

The horrible symptoms set in so quickly that you are not left to wonder if you are getting sick or not. It starts out as a slight sore throat, but within a couple of hours, it progresses to a major sickness.

My doctor told me that my throat was extremely inflamed. It was so bad that he gave me a steroid shot to jump-start the healing process. He also gave me strong antibiotics, and within a day, the infection and inflammation started to subside.

Post 6

@jennythelib – The rule I usually follow with fever is if the symptoms resemble that of a cold, don't treat it. If they are strong and unbearable, go to a doctor.

I have had minor illnesses in the past with a low-grade fever, and I let it run its course. I think I got well sooner by not taking medication to bring it down.

However, I have also had strep throat, which is a serious infection that inflames your throat so much that you almost cannot swallow at all. I have had fever as high as 101 with this, and I always go to the doctor right away for treatment.

Post 5

I was always nervous when my kids got sick and started running a fever. I have heard that this can actually be a good sign.

This shows that your immune system is working and trying hard to fight whatever infection you have in your body.

Even though you feel pretty miserable when you have a fever, once the fever breaks, you usually begin to feel better within a short time.

It's just when the fever gets really high, or won't stay down very long that I really start to get nervous.

Post 4

I know many people rely on medications to help get relief from symptoms of inflammation.

There are also many anti inflammatory foods that can help your body fight inflammation. The great thing about these foods, are they are healthy for you and you don't get the adverse side effects you have with medication.

Some of them are foods you don't eat very often like kelp and papaya, but many of them are tasty fruits and vegetables that are easy to add to your diet.

I try to make sure I include a variety of these anti inflammatory foods more as prevention than as a problem I am trying to treat.

Making sure I get foods like blueberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and salmon can help with this. I also love green tea, and this is a drink that has been shown to help with inflammation.

Post 3

I am fascinated by the way our bodies deal with infection and inflammation. I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory disease.

When my joints are red, swollen and tender, I know my body is fighting the inflammation. This is different than someone who suffers acute inflammation from overworking their muscles.

Sometimes I even run a low grade fever when the inflammation is bad. These are outward symptoms that my body is working hard to combat this.

The frustrating thing with an auto immune disease, is your own immune system is turning on itself and attacking your own body.

I use mediation to help fight it, but it really only helps with the symptoms, as there is no cure for this type of chronic inflammation.

Post 2

@dfoster85 - Knowing the signs of infection is definitely wise. Fever is a *huge* red flag, although it does not always need to be treated - it does help your body fight off infection, just like inflammation does.

But if you have any reason to suspect that the cause of an inflammation is infection, get to your doctor ASAP! You just never know. A dear friend of mine noticed an inflamed area on her arm near where she'd had a small scratch. It turned out to be MRSA! (Drug-resistant staph infection.) She had too to have some tissue surgically removed from her arm. Had she waited even longer, she could have lost her arm! Many infections are minor and easily treated, but that doesn't mean you should monkey around with them. Any infection can turn serious!

Post 1

It's important to be aware, of course, that not all inflammatory responses indicate infection. Allergens, injury, etc. can also cause inflammation.

When I had a C-section, the doctor told me that the big warning signs of infection were white streaks, pus, and fever. With an injury, you might see some redness, some swelling, and the area might even feel a little warm, but if you don't see white streaks of other big red flags, it is probably not infected. (Always check with your health care provider if you have any doubt.)

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