Staph Skin Infections: Everything You Need to Know

According to the news Staphylococcus aureus (staph) skin infections are on the rise, and not only in their traditional breeding grounds of medical environments, but outside of them as well. Worse yet, the Associated Press stated on August 16, 2006 that many traditional drugs used to treat the infection are now useless due to the staph bacteria’s built-up immunity to it. (Marchione, 2006). As such, awareness as to prevention, risks, symptoms and complications should be raised in order to best prevent a further rise and fewer needs for antibiotics to find them.

Contrary to popular belief, staph is a common bacteria often present on the skin and/or in the nose. In fact, 15-40 perfect of healthy humans are carriers of the bacteria (Stanway, 2006). Staph bacteria can actually live on the skin without causing any apparent problems for the host. However, breaks in the skin due to wounds, bites, or the like can allow the bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause more serious problems . (Staphlyococcal Skin Infections, 2006). Additionally, those with weak immune systems, dermatological diseases or some underlying illness can increase their risk of having difficulties with the staph bacteria.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) good hygene is the number one preventing factor for staph infections. They list keeping hands clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water, keeping cuts and abrasions clean and covered with a proper dressing (e.g., bandage) until healed, and avoiding contact with other people’s wounds or material contaminated from wounds as keys to preventing infection. (2003).

There are many different types of staph infections, so the symptoms vary depending on the type of infection you have. Those infected with staph are likely to have symptoms that may seem like normal skin problems such as pimples or an insect bite. Some types of infections are as follows: tiny white-headed pimples at the base of a hair shaft, boils, infected bumps or blisters, redness or swelling of the tissue below the skin, a stye, or an infected wound. (Staphlyococcal Skin Infections, 2006). The only way to know for sure if these skin problems are staph related is to consult a doctor. Serious infections can also be accompanied by a fever or general ill feeling. In such cases, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

Upon a doctors visit your doctor will swab the area in order to get a culture of it, or take a blood sample to run a culture from. In some cases, there is no culture to be found. Instead, as with various other infections, doctors can run a blood test to determine whether the body has an immune response. Should the tests come out positive for a staph infection, there are several treatment paths a doctor can take.

The first option is a course of antibiotics. Even those strains that are immune to penicillin, such as MRSA can be treated using this method. (Questions & Answers: The Flu and Staph Infection, 2003). Other forms of treatment including draining any fluids inside the infections, removal of the dead tissue, treating any underlying problem (skin diseases, infected stitches, etc�). For light infections a simple at home treatment is likely to suffice. Some doctors will purely recommend cleaning the area well with an antibacterial soap, applying an antibiotic ointment to the infected area, and covering the infected area with a clean dressing. (Staphlyococcal Skin Infections, 2006).

As mentioned before, many staph infections have become immune to antibiotics. Medical professionals urge caution in dealing with any open wounds. Both patients and medical professionals alike should wash their hands thoroughly before handing any sort of open wound or broken skin. Remember hygiene is one of the most important factors in preventing staph skin infections. Staph can be transferred from one person to another rather easily. So it is important to use clean towels washed in hot water, and wash your hands regularly.

Although some types of staph infections can be very serious, others can actually heal on their own without specific treatment. Of course, treatment will help the problem to heal faster, which is a certain upside. However, there are things you can do at home to help you feel better until the infection has subsided. Some methods can be found on the Nemours Foundation Teen Health web site. Drugs such as pain relievers can help to alleviate the pain of the infection, while soaking the skin with hot water, or applying a hot pack (such as a hot cloth or water bottle) are non drug pain relieving options. (2006). Again, the most important thing to remember is that all the materials used are kept clean. Thus, any clothes, hot packs, bottles, etc, should be washed with hot water or discarded after use. An infected cloth will not only make your infection worse, but could infect another person.

With staph infections in the news and incidences rising, it is important to prevent the infections as much as possible. The best method of prevention is knowledge and applying that knowledge where fit. Thus, the aforementioned methods should be heeded in the prevention of further staph infections. However, should an infection arise, treat the area and see a doctor should it become seriousâÂ?¦and always cover the infected area! Even your clothes can transmit the infection back to you, so be sure to keep the area covered, and any thing that touches the infected area clean. Prevented infections mean that the staph bacteria won’t have the chance to build up an immunity to the antibiotics we use to cure them. This is one of our best weapons against the staph bacteria.


Marchione, Marilynn (2006, August 16). Staph Skin Infections on Rise in U.S.. Retrieved August 16, 2006, from News Web site:

Stanway, A, MBChBA (2006, April 7). Staphylococcal skin infections. Retrieved August 16, 2006, from DermNet NZ Web site:

(2006). Staphlyococcal Skin Infections. Retrieved August 16, 2006, from Nemours Foundations Web site:

(2003, December 17). Questions & Answers: The Flu and Staph Infection. Retrieved August 16, 2006, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site:

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