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How Flesh-eating Bacteria Works

Symptom Timeline
Proper wound care is essential to keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
Proper wound care is essential to keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
David De Lossy/Thinkstock

Unlike some illnesses, such as high blood pressure, that silently take their toll without any symptoms, flesh-eating bacteria rings the doorbell and bangs on your door upon arrival. In fact, the first sign of flesh-eating bacteria is usually pain from an injury. This may improve, but then get drastically worse, disproportionately to the type of wound. The skin can become hot, swollen and red. You may experience diarrhea, fever, chills, vomiting and nausea [source: WebMD].

And all of these symptoms will take place on an accelerated timeline. Here's how the symptom progression typically occurs:

  • Within the first 24 hours: Although flesh-eating bacteria can occur almost "out of the blue" or from a bruise, usually a minor wound, such as a cut, rug burn or scratch, is the originating site of the condition. During the first 24 hours, you may experience some pain near the wound, which then increases greatly in severity. You may feel like you have the flu -- experiencing nausea, fever, weakness, diarrhea, etc.
  • Just three to four days in: The area near the wound will swell and may turn into a purple rash. You may see dark marks that turn into blisters that fill with dark fluid. As time advances, you may start to see signs of the skin beginning to die as it becomes flaky, white or even dark.
  • Four to five days fighting flesh-eating bacteria: As your body goes into toxic shock syndrome, meaning toxins from the bacteria are flowing through your body, your blood pressure will drop and you may become unconscious.

[source: National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation]

Now that you know what to be on the lookout for when it comes to flesh-eating bacteria, what can you do to prevent this illness? Read on to discover your risk level for contracting flesh-eating bacteria and learn some basic hygiene practices you can employ for protection.