Back-to-school time means an increased risk of coming in contact with Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as “staph,” bacteria. These bacteria can cause skin infections, which look like pimples or boils and are often mistaken for spider bites.
Staph infections can develop into life-threatening illnesses, including pneumonia and blood poisoning, as we saw back in March with the two staph-related deaths in a Calvert County family. But this is rare. Early identification and appropriate treatment greatly reduce the chances that the infection will become severe.
Many staph infections are easily treated with antibiotics or by draining the infected area, however there is growing concern about certain strains such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which are resistant to some antibiotics. MRSA is not untreatable. It’s just trickier to treat and therefore more dangerous.
I see cases of staph skin infections frequently at Doctors Express of Timonium, often in kids involved in school athletics. My recommendation is to keep a close watch on blemishes. If you suspect a staph skin infection, cover the wound and visit a doctor as soon as you can. Do not attempt to drain the wound yourself.
Signs site is infected:
- Warm to the touch
- Filled with pus or other drainage
Staph often enters the body through an open cut or scratch. It can be carried on the skin of healthy people and passed person to person or through contact with surfaces. Athletes are particularly at risk because of the close contact associated with some sports (notably, football and wrestling) and unhygienic conditions in gyms and locker rooms.
Protect yourself and your family:
- Keep open sores clean and bandaged until healed.
- Dispose of used bandages, and don’t touch others’ bandages.
- Avoid contact with others’ wounds and pus.
- Don’t share towels, razors, uniforms or other personal items in the locker room.
- Wash sports gear in hot water and bleach, if possible.
- Shower immediately after playing team sports and using shared equipment.
- Wash hands frequently.