What is a superinfection?
The term superinfection comes from Latin and means over-infection. In virology, the term is used for a viral infection form of a cell. This shows the secondary infection by a different strain of the same pathogen. Likewise, a co-infection with another virus is possible.
The medicine uses the term superinfection mostly for a secondary infection. This is usually a viral infection followed by a bacterial infection. Occasionally, the term superinfection also refers to infections that are promoted by non-infectious chronic diseases.
Typical examples of superinfection include secondary bacterial infection following viral bronchitis. There is a risk that the bronchitis passes into a life-threatening pneumonia. But also chronic circulatory disorders, which occur in the context of diabetes (diabetes mellitus) and cause ischemia of the foot, can lead to a superinfection such as a diabetic foot.
Another example of a superinfection is atopic dermatitis. In this disease, which is accompanied by a thinning and weakening of the skin, a secondary infection with fungi such as [[[Trichophyton]] rubrum or bacteria such as staphylococci is conceivable.
A superinfection is caused by another infection. Thus, a bacterial superinfection is the complication of a viral infection such as a flu infection or flu (influenza). The common cold is always triggered by viruses.
However, the bacteria can exploit the weakness of the human immune system during this infection and infect the diseased tissue a second time, leading to secondary or superinfection.
Typical superinfections in case of a flu infection are sinusitis and otitis media. The pathogens pass from the nose into the sinuses or from the Eustachian tube (Eustachian tube) into the middle ear. It can also lead to other sequelae such as bronchitis, tonsillitis, pleurisy or pneumonia.
The cold or flu viruses put a heavy strain on the human immune system. So the immune system has to find a suitable response to the pathogens. The bacteria, however, their attacks are facilitated because the immune cells are concerned with the defense of viruses. For example, the immune messengers are re-formed and other immune defenses suffer from fatigue.
Above all, mucous membranes in the nose and bronchi are an easy target for bacteria, since the cilia on the upper mucosal cells have already been destroyed by the viruses. Normally, the small hairs carry invading microbes back out of the organism. However, when they are destroyed, the bacteria can adhere and attack the second cell line, causing inflammation.
A contact with bacteria from the environment is not necessary for the outbreak of a superinfection. Thus, the germs can already be in the body, but have so far been successfully kept in check by the defense system. The virus infection then leads to a disturbance of the balance.
Symptoms, complaints & signs
The symptoms of a flu superinfection always start with the typical symptoms of a cold. These include runny nose, sore throat, coughing and sneezing. In the course of further complaints such as headache, pressure in the sinuses or bronchitis may be added.
A typical sign of a secondary bacterial infection is a green-yellowish secretion of the affected mucosa. In addition, the affected persons often suffer from fever. In case of otitis media, ear pain or tinnitus may be present. In addition, the feeling of sickness of the patient increases and the coughing difficult.
Other secondary infections are much less common, but can have dramatic consequences. For example, diabetes carries the risk of a diabetic foot developing from poorly healing wounds. In the worst case, an operation or even an amputation may be required.
Diagnosis & disease course
If signs such as purulent rhinitis or purulent tonsillitis, the visit to the doctor is inevitable. This person makes a physical examination and deals with the medical history of the patient. In addition, the almonds are checked for any white deposits, which are an indication of bacterial tonsillitis (tonsillitis).
Also helpful are blood tests that look for inflammation markers. If pneumonia is suspected, an X-ray can be performed. Rarely, it also requires a bronchoscopy (lung reflection) or a computed tomography. Superinfection increases the risk of complications. In addition, the healing process is delayed, which makes the disease take longer.
The so-called superinfection is itself a complication of a flu infection or an influenza flu. Because the immune system of the patient is weakened due to the viral cold, now bacteria can infect the diseased tissue and trigger a secondary infection.
The course of a superinfection is much heavier than the course of a flu infection. So threaten due to the bacterial complication of other diseases such as sinusitis (sinusitis), a purulent bronchitis, a middle ear infection (otitis media) or pneumonia (pneumonia). The responsible triggers are bacterial species such as streptococci, pneumococci or staphylococci.
In an unfavorable case, pneumonia is also associated with the formation of lung abscesses. So that it does not come to such serious consequences, the flu should always be treated in time. Typical signs of superinfection include the appearance of purulent secretions that have a green-yellow color.
Not infrequently the affected persons suffer from fever. Furthermore, palatal tonsillitis (tonsillitis) may occur. Another, but rather rare, complication of superinfection is myocarditis. It is caused by viruses and is characterized by fast fatigue, shortness of breath and cardiac arrhythmia.
Other possible sequelae of superinfection include heart failure, pulmonary edema, which accumulates fluid in the lungs or circulatory collapse. Less common are gastrointestinal diseases or meningitis (meningitis). In principle, damage to almost all organs is possible.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor should be consulted as soon as there is a general weakness, a feeling of illness or a persistent malaise. If the state of health of the person concerned steadily decreases within a short time, he needs medical care. Cold, cough, fever, headache or body aches are signs of a disorder that should be examined by a doctor. A continuous decrease in physical and mental performance, an increased need for sleep and disorders of concentration or attention should be clarified by a doctor.
Ear discomfort, coughing, loss of appetite or indifference should also be investigated and treated. If the patient has already suffered from an infection and is now on the road to recovery in a state of renewed worsening, he should inform his doctor as soon as possible about the changes.
A decrease in weight, abnormal behavior, irritability and general vegetative dysfunction is recommended. Changes in the appearance of the skin, sleep disorders, fatigue, feelings of pressure in the paranasal sinuses and fatigue are considered to be of concern if the symptoms persist or increase over several days. The person concerned needs medical care and should consult a doctor. Without medical care, complications and serious health consequences can occur.
Treatment & Therapy
A superinfection must be treated consistently. Therapeutic measures include rest, light vitamin-rich foods, ample hydration and warmth. In addition, the doctor prescribes antibiotics that kill the causative bacteria and support the immune system against the double burden.
Also helpful is the intake of herbal supplements such as sage tea, elderflower tea, soapwort, star anise, blackthorn and jujube. Thus, the active ingredients have an anti-inflammatory, sweat-inducing and expectorant effect. Also useful are rubs with peppermint, fennel, eucalyptus, thyme and anise.
If it is a superinfection due to skin injuries or atopic dermatitis, a consistent wound treatment must be provided. These include the daily dressing change and baths.
In order to prevent a superinfection, it is advisable to drink plenty in the event of illness, to sleep a lot and to consume fruits and vegetables. In contrast, the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and sweets should be avoided during a flu-like infection in order to avoid additional efforts of the immune system.
The superinfection is often associated with a significant weakening of the body. Targeted aftercare, which also serves for long-term recovery, is therefore particularly important. She must be consulted with the family doctor and needs the help of the patient for optimal success.
What is important is a healthy lifestyle that helps the organism to regenerate sustainably. This includes adequate sleep, which has an important recreational function. It also depends on the diet. Fruits and vegetables provide valuable vitamins, minerals and trace elements. A sufficient amount of drinking is also very important. 1.5 to 2 liters of water or herbal tea are ideal.
Exercise helps the circulation to stabilize again, but should initially be done in a very gentle manner. Excessive demands should be avoided in any case. Often a walk is sufficient, which in addition to physical activity also has to offer fresh air.
Often, superinfections are treated with antibiotics, which can lead to a burden on the intestinal flora. Here it makes sense, after the therapy to overload the intestine by a lush or flatulent diet. Also, probiotic food can help the intestine to regenerate sustainably after antibiotics.
You can do that yourself
For the improvement of the health the affected person can orient his everyday life optimally to the needs of his body. To stabilize the body's defense system, a healthy and balanced diet is important. In order to cope with the pathogens, the immune system needs to be supported in several ways. An oxygen-rich environment is just as necessary as adequate physical exercise.
At the same time, it is important to avoid risk factors. Consumption of nicotine, drugs or alcohol is therefore not recommended. It should also be checked that there is no abuse when taking medicines. For questions and ambiguities, the consultation with a physician should be sought. For optimal recovery, the help and support of a physician should be sought. In addition, natural remedies or home remedies can also be helpful to alleviate existing ailments. For example, if you scratch your neck, it may be pleasant to take honey.
The organism should always be protected against overuse. Physical and emotional situations of overloading are to be avoided. As soon as it comes to a feeling of illness or discomfort, the organism should receive sufficient rest and protection. Sleep hygiene has to be optimized for this. The human body needs optimal sleep conditions for adequate regeneration. Therefore, interruptions of sleep of any kind should be avoided.