6 doctors weighed in:

How can I tell the difference between a viral versus a bacterial infection?

6 doctors weighed in
Dr. Michael Klein
Family Medicine
2 doctors agree

In brief: Often timing or test

There are many different types of viral infections and bacterial infections so it depends on location.
by type of infection: sore throat: bacteria can easily be identified with an office test. if negative usually viral sinusitis: after a cold is going on for 7+ days and getting better, suddenly gets worse pneumonia: doctor exam, x-ray, culture flu (viral): type of symptoms, office test

In brief: Often timing or test

There are many different types of viral infections and bacterial infections so it depends on location.
by type of infection: sore throat: bacteria can easily be identified with an office test. if negative usually viral sinusitis: after a cold is going on for 7+ days and getting better, suddenly gets worse pneumonia: doctor exam, x-ray, culture flu (viral): type of symptoms, office test
Dr. Michael Klein
Dr. Michael Klein
Thank
Dr. David Lipkin
Internal Medicine
1 doctor agrees

In brief: No simple answer

There are hundreds of known bacterial and viral diseases.
Some viral illnesses are mild, others severe. The same for bacterial infections. If you have a specific condition or illness in mind let us know so we can give you some guidance.

In brief: No simple answer

There are hundreds of known bacterial and viral diseases.
Some viral illnesses are mild, others severe. The same for bacterial infections. If you have a specific condition or illness in mind let us know so we can give you some guidance.
Dr. David Lipkin
Dr. David Lipkin
Thank
Dr. John Munshower
Family Medicine

In brief: It can be tough

Doctors often have a hard time telling the same thing.
Generally, viral illnesses may produce a low fever, clear colored mucus, generalized fatigue, muscle aches, joint pains and are treated with supportive care and symptomatic relief. There are anti-viral meds for some cases. Bacterial infections may be harsher with higher fever, colored mucus, worsening symptoms, etc. See Doc if concerned.

In brief: It can be tough

Doctors often have a hard time telling the same thing.
Generally, viral illnesses may produce a low fever, clear colored mucus, generalized fatigue, muscle aches, joint pains and are treated with supportive care and symptomatic relief. There are anti-viral meds for some cases. Bacterial infections may be harsher with higher fever, colored mucus, worsening symptoms, etc. See Doc if concerned.
Dr. John Munshower
Dr. John Munshower
Thank
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