What Are the Symptoms of a Staph Infection of the Skin?

Skin infection caused by MRSA
This is a skin abscess caused by MRSA that has begun to spontaneously drain. Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

Question: What Are the Symptoms of a Staph Infection of the Skin?

Answer:

The most common symptom of a staphylococcus infection is a pimple or boil on the skin. However, you shouldn't let every pimple freak you out, as not every pimple is caused by staph. Most pimples are self-limited eruptions that will eventually heal on their own. The best thing that you can do to treat them is leave them alone.

The main concern with staph infections of the skin is scrapes or cuts that have become infected with the bacteria. If you have a wound that seems to be infected, you should bring it to the attention of your doctor. Signs of a skin infection include skin that is:

  • warm to the touch,
  • red,
  • swollen,
  • draining pus, or
  • looks streaky.

Most serious MRSA infections are transmitted in hospital settings, in part because people who are receiving inpatient care are likely to be sicker and thus more susceptible to serious infections. However, these infections can also occur out in the community. According to the CDC, approximately one in three people carry some sort of staph bacteria in their noses, and two in 100 carry MRSA. That doesn't mean that they'll get sick, just that the bacteria are present in the community setting.

It's worth noting that although most MRSA infections aren't transmitted sexually, MRSA can be an STD.

Preventing sexual transmission of MRSA infections is similar to preventing other STDs that transfer skin to skin. However, staph infections are only really a concern when the bacteria get into a cut or scrape. Therefore the best way to take care of yourself is to cover open wounds before having sex and do a good job of cleaning up any cuts or scrapes after you and your partner are done in bed.

In general, reducing your risk of MRSA infection is mostly a matter of good hygiene. That means:

  • regularly washing your hands with soap and water
  • avoiding sharing personal items, like tweezers, towels, or razors
  • clean your body often, particularly after exercise
  • cleaning and covering any open wounds
  • visiting a doctor if you're worried about a skin infection

That advice isn't just good for reducing your risk of MRSA. It will also keep you healthier in general.

Source:

CDC Community Associated MRSA Information Page. Accessed 1/22/08 at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa_ca_public.html.

CDC. General Information about MRSA in the Community. Accessed 9/7/15 at http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/community/index.html

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