Staph Infections

by Deanne Stein Patient Expert

Superbug. It's a term that's been in the news a lot lately. However, I was hearing about this infection even before it became a recent headline. Earlier this fall, my son was very concerned about contracting it. Superbug is a nickname for MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's a type of "staph" infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics.

Staph infections including MRSA are most common in people who are in the hospital or nursing homes, and people who have a weakened immune system. These infections can be fatal to young children, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system. But lately, these infections have been popping up throughout communities, at schools, daycare centers, and among healthy people who were not recently hospitalized. These infections are called CA-MRSA. In fact, some doctors believe staph infections are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the community today.

As it turned out, one of my son's teammates on the school's football team did contract a staph infection. Luckily, it wasn't a serious strain. It was a mild case of staph and cleared up quickly with an antibiotic. However, towards the end of football season, my son would show me a red spot on his skin where he had caught it from this infected teammate. This became a daily occurrence. While my son never contracted a staph infection, his fear of catching it lingered until the last game.

It should be a concern; a staph infection isn't anything to mess around with. The infections appear as small boils on the skin, which are often red, swollen and painful. They are usually full of pus. They commonly occur at the site of cuts or abrasions on the skin, but can also occur where hair covers the body, like on the back of the neck, groin, buttock, armpit or even the bearded area of men. The infections that can't be successfully treated with prescribed antibiotics involve longer illnesses and extended hospital stays. More serious infections can also occur, such as pneumonia, bloodstream and bone infections, as well as stroke, heart infections and organ failure. These rare infections happen when the staph enters the blood stream and is carried throughout the body.

Some doctors say even though some antibiotics can't treat MRSA, the first-line treatment may not include medication at all. Usually, draining the pus from the area treats these skin infections. Your doctor should only do this, though. Preventing the infection is key because these skin infections can be picked up anywhere. It's transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with shared items that were in contact with an infected person. These items include towels, bars of soap and razors. So, practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you participate in sports or activities with skin-to-skin contact, shower immediately. Use clothing or towels between skin and shared equipment at gyms. Also, cover skin abrasions and cuts with clean, dry bandages until healed. And rest assure, doctors say most skin infections are treatable.

Related Information:

Fighting a Killer Infection: MRSA

Drug Resistant Staph a Widespread Threat

Deanne Stein
Meet Our Writer
Deanne Stein

Deanne Stein wrote about heart disease as a patient expert for HealthCentral.