Signs and Symptoms of MRSA

Could You Have a MRSA Infection? Here's How to Tell

Methicillen Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
MRSA can lead to severe lesions. Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as MRSA, is a type of bacterial infection that is particularly hard to treat. It is immune to many of the antibiotics typically used to treat garden variety staph infections, which is why it's called methicillin-resistant (methicillin is a class of antibiotics). 

MRSA can show up in lots of different parts of the body. It can infect the lungs, intestines or other body organs.

The most common MRSA infections are on the skin. Unfortunately, MRSA skin infections can be mistaken as bug or spider bites, even by doctors. It's very important if you think you have a spider bite that seems to be getting bigger that you see a doctor. Ask the doc to test the "spider bite" for potential infections. Not only could a skin lesion be from Staphylococcus, it could also be streptococcus, which is another potentially nasty bacterial infection.

MRSA Symptoms from Skin Infections

Important note: It's not really important to figure out if it's MRSA before you go to the doctor. Without a test, there's no way to know if a reaction comes from MRSA, simple staph, streptococcus or some other type of infection. They all look pretty similar—especially to the untrained eye—and infections can't be identified just by a picture. Regardless of the cause, any infection that doesn't get better in a few days should be seen by a doctor.

Signs of a skin infection include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blisters or boils (see image)
  • Pus draining or oozing from the sore
  • The area around the sore is hotter than the rest of the skin

MRSA symptoms can come from more than just at the site of the infection. Beware of general weakness, body aches and fever.

MRSA is an infection, which means it impacts the body as a whole, and the body fights it like any other infection. It can be easy to forget that aspect of MRSA when you're looking right at the infection sitting on top of the skin.

Invasive MRSA Symptoms

Sometimes, MRSA can invade the body into organs such as the lungs. When that happens, doctors call it invasive MRSA.

Once a staph or MRSA infection gets into other areas besides the skin, there are lots of different medical conditions they can mimic. This is not a complete list, but some signs and symptoms of MRSA infections in the lungs or other areas can include:

Some of these signs and symptoms are serious enough to seek medical attention regardless of the cause. Remember, MRSA is much too difficult to identify on your own. MRSA treatment requires prescription antibiotics you can only get from a physician.

If you think you have symptoms of a MRSA infection, the CDC recommends you cover it with a bandage and call your doctor. Your doctor may want to cut into the infection and drain it. Never attempt to drain the MRSA infection yourself, as you could end up spreading it to other areas.

If you do get antibiotics from your doctor, be sure to finish all the medication as directed—even if the MRSA infection seems to be getting better. 


"Community-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA)." 15 Apr 2009. CDC. CDC. 31 Jan 2010