Definition: Staphylococcus aureus (or "Staph") is a type of bacteria. It may cause skin infections that look like pimples or boils. Skin infections caused by Staph may be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. Some Staph (known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA) are resistant to certain antibiotics, making it harder to treat. MRSA infections often initially look like a "spider bite" that rapidly (over a few hours) enlarges and becomes more red and tender. It may drain pus or other drainage. It is important to see a doctor so that this drainage can be cultured and antibiotics can be started.
Cause:Anyone can get a Staph infection. People are more likely to get a Staph infection if they have:
- Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a Staph infection
- Contact with items and surfaces that have Staph on them
- Openings in their skin such as cuts or scrapes
- Crowded living conditions
- Poor hygiene
How serious are Staph infections? Most Staph infections are minor and may be easily treated. Staph also may cause more serious infections, such as infections of the bloodstream, surgical sites, or pneumonia. Sometimes, a Staph infection that starts as a skin infection may worsen. It is important to contact your child's doctor if the infection does not get better.
Contagiousness: Staph infections are spread via skin contact. To keep Staph infections from spreading:
- Wash hands often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and cover them with bandages
- Do not touch other people’s cuts or bandages
- Do not share personal items like towels or razor
Treatment: Treatment for a Staph skin infection may include taking an antibiotic or having a doctor drain and culture the infection. If you are given an antibiotic, be sure to give all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your child's doctor tells you to stop. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save them to use later. Additionally, soaking the infected area in warm soapy water three to four times per day will help resolve the infection.
Once your child’s treatment has been completed, follow the protocol below:
- First: Choose a week that your family can focus on this protocol.
- Day 1: Wash all sheets and towels with (colorsafe) bleach and hot water. Staph bacteria can survive on these items and be spread from person-to-person with shared linens/towels.
- Days 1-5: rub a pea-sized amount of Bactroban cream or ointment to your nostrils twice a day. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water BEFORE and AFTER using this medication! Use your finger or a Q-tip to apply.
- Days 1-7: Each day, wash entire body with Chlorhexidine or Hibiclens liquid soap. Use a sponge or wet washcloth to scrub the skin with the liquid soap. Focus on areas where Staph likes to hide: armpits, buttocks, groin, thighs, under breasts (women). Rinse thoroughly with clean water after scrubbing, and use a fresh, clean towel to dry off.
- Good handwashing is important for everyone in the house, during and after this protocol. Have soap available in all the bathrooms, and make sure everyone uses good hand friction!
One way to help prevent infection, especially in people who have experienced repeated Staph infection is:
- Once a week, add ½ cup of bleach to a bathtub filled ¼ full with water to decrease skin contamination. Soak in the water for 5-10 minutes. Do not let your child drink the bath water!
* Adapted from CDC guidelines regarding Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA infection and OHSU Staph decolonization plan.