5 Facts About Bacteria That Could Save Your Life
Know Thy Enemy…
You probably have heard of bacteria before, but you might not know a lot about them. Interestingly enough, these microscopic organisms are not plants or animals, they belong to their own unique kingdom. Most bacteria are one of 3 different shapes: spherical (also called “coccus”, as in “streptococcus”), rod-shaped (“bacillus”), and twisted (“spiral”, from the Latin word “spiral”). They are also very old; in fact, they were the first organisms to appear on this Earth billions of years ago.
Actually, we’ve already lost the war
I for one welcome our bacterial overlords, but most people don’t like the thought of billions of bacteria crawling under our skin. But remember, they are everywhere: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat every day.
As you read this, there are over 10 trillion bacteria inside your body — more than ten times the number of human cells in your body! And while this may surprise you (though it shouldn’t) you’re still alive and healthy. That’s because most bacteria is, in fact, friendly and neutral. They assist us with mostly the digestion of our food and protect us from harmful bacteria. We provide a warm, moist environment for bacteria to thrive — and in return, the bacteria do their best to keep us happy and healthy.
3. So Which Bacteria Are Good?
Fortunately, your body does a great job at figuring this out for you already. In most cases, if good bacteria enters your body nothing happens. That’s also the same case with most bad bacteria: our immune system finds them and takes them out faster than One Direction at a Sadie Hawkins dance.
But when the bad bacteria (also called pathogenic bacteria) start winning, you’ll know it. The bacteria will start releasing toxins which can damage body tissue. That tells your immune system to kick into higher gear, by raising your body temperature, producing more phlegm to trap the pathogens, and increasing the amount of, um, evacuations. Bacteria can’t attack your body if they’re not in there.
How to Avoid Harmful Bacteria: Clean Yo Self!
The title says it all, but it is not as simple as just being clean. Always wash your hands after you cough or sneeze, when you touch frequently used items in your home (door knobs, telephones, etc), and especially before you eat or handle food. As the CDC recommends, use soap and clean water every time, and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. What else can you do?
When you touch anything in public, be it railings, elevator buttons, or shaking hands, avoid touching your face. Your skin does an excellent job keeping things out of your body, but there are seven openings on your head (go ahead, count them). Most infections occur after foreign bacteria enter one of your head-holes (typically the mouth).
Things to Counteract Bacteria: Through The Magic Of Medicine
If you do get sick from a bacterial infection, remember that these things happen and bacteria are not like viral infections (which you would have to just wait it out). Modern medicine allows us to fight against infections from harmful bacteria with antibiotics.
Today’s antibiotics are able to cure minor and even serious infections by killing or severally injuring the bacteria that are harming the host’s body. When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. It is important to finish your medicine, even if you feel better. If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.