Infectious diseases

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

Rates of several common sexually transmitted infections have been rising during the past few years. Many people with an STI have no idea they have been infected, so testing is crucial. If someone doesn’t know that they are infected, they can’t get treated. If they don’t get treated and have unprotected sex they will pass these infections to others.

Parents: How smart are you about antibiotics?

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Antibiotics are essential medications and can save lives. But they should only be used when absolutely needed. As with any drug, antibiotics have risks as well as benefits. Side effects range from diarrhea to allergic reactions. Also, using antibiotics when they are not necessary can result in bacteria that cause infections that cannot be treated easily or effectively.

Just what is pneumonia, anyway?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The term “pneumonia” encompasses a number of illnesses and infections. Some are more serious than others, and some are more easily treated than others. Since pneumonia has dominated the news cycle for the past few weeks, we’ve put together some definitions to demystify this catchall term for a range of lung conditions.

Flu news: Now most people with egg allergies can get a flu shot

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

If you have been avoiding the flu shot because you’re allergic to eggs, studies suggest that you can safely get vaccinated. Allergic reactions to the flu shot are quite rare. If you’ve never had a reaction to a flu shot, protect yourself by getting one this year. Ideally do it in a doctor’s office or hospital so that you can get prompt treatment in the unlikely event you have an immediate, severe reaction.

The 2 reasons your child needs to get a flu shot this season

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

It’s especially important for children to get flu shots, both because the flu can hit the young with particular severity, and because of the potential to pass the illness to others.

When do you really need antibiotics for that sinus infection?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

Many people with sinus infections expect to be given antibiotics for treatment, but in most cases the infection will improve on its own. If a person’s symptoms meet certain criteria — for example, when colorful nasal discharge and facial pressure and pain last for more than 10 days — then antibiotics are recommended.

Sepsis: When infection overwhelms

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

The dangers of sepsis are more pronounced for certain parts of the population, and more likely to be caused by certain types of infections, like pneumonia. It’s vital that patients and those close to them be aware of the signs of sepsis and get immediate medical attention if it is suspected.

Genital herpes: The painful facts about a tricky virus

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

While most people know that genital herpes is transmitted through sexual contact, many people don’t realize that it’s possible to carry the virus and infect others without showing outward symptoms or even being aware that they have it. A person with confirmed genital herpes can take medication to help decrease the chances of spreading the virus. However, it’s no guarantee, so it’s best to have a frank conversation with a new sexual partner.

MRSA: The not-so-famous superbug

Michaela Kane
Michaela Kane, Contributor

The MRSA bacteria is not uncommon, and people can become seriously ill when MRSA infections go unchecked. Unfortunately, MRSA can be particularly difficult to treat because it easily adapts to become resistant to antibiotics. Although these infections occur primarily in hospitals, they can also occur in close or crowded conditions where it’s possible to come in contact with an infected wound, or if personal items are shared. Signs of MRSA should be reported to your doctor right away. Luckily, careful hygiene and hand washing can help you avoid this troublesome infection.

Why we need to make it harder for parents to refuse vaccines

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Choosing to vaccinate a child — or not — doesn’t just affect that child, but also undermines the concept of herd immunity that protects others in the community from the spread of certain diseases.