Serious Bacterial Infection

Serious Bacterial Infections: What You Should Know

Serious bacterial infection is an umbrella term for any infection caused by bacteria. These infections can range from mild to life-threatening. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a serious bacterial infection can help you seek timely medical intervention and decrease your risk of further health complications. Here’s what you need to know.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a serious bacterial infection can include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

Types of Bacterial Infection

The most common types of bacterial infections include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Septicemia (blood poisoning)
  • Tuberculosis

Risk Factors

Some people are more likely to get a serious bacterial infection than others. Common risk factors include:

  • A weakened immune system due to a chronic condition (such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes), medications (such as chemotherapies or AIDS drugs), or recent surgery
  • Recent animal bites or scratches
  • Recent travel to an area where certain infections are common
  • Using intravenous (IV) drugs
  • Age (young children and the elderly)


Untreated, serious bacterial infections can cause complications, including death. Common complications of serious bacterial infections include organ damage, brain damage, vision loss, kidney failure, breathing problems, deformities, and paralysis. It’s important to seek medical help as soon as you notice signs and symptoms of a serious bacterial infection.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your doctor suspects a serious bacterial infection, they may order one or more tests, such as:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Blood culture
  • Spinal tap
  • Urine test
  • Imaging tests
  • Tissue biopsy

Treatment for a serious bacterial infection usually includes antibiotics taken for several days or weeks, depending on the type of infection. If you have a complicated infection or one that hasn’t responded to antibiotics, intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be recommended. Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes to help facilitate healing.