Always contact your healthcare provider if you think you have developed a staph infection, as they often require topical or oral antibiotic treatment. If these infections are not managed appropriately, they can become life-threatening.
There are several ways to prevent a staph infection, including:
- Use good hygiene that includes washing your hands often.
- Limit the sharing of towels, linens, and clothing with someone who has an infection.
- Clean athletic equipment before and after use.
- If you have an open wound, keep it covered to avoid spreading an infection to someone else.
- Avoid handling and preparing food for other people when you have an infection.
The majority of staph infections require antibiotic treatment.
Healthcare providers treat a mild skin infection like impetigo with a topical antibiotic such as mupirocin. More significant infections like cellulitis, folliculitis, and mastitis require oral antibiotics.
Treatment options depend on the likelihood of bacterial resistance in a particular community.
The best oral antibiotic options for staph that are not resistant to common antibiotics are cephalexin and dicloxacillin. If a healthcare provider has concerns about MRSA, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, doxycycline, and clindamycin are the best options.
Skin infections that develop into boils or abscesses usually require incision and drainage.
People who develop more severe infections like pneumonia, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, or sepsis need intravenous antibiotics. The best options include ceftriaxone, vancomycin, or linezolid.
Still, others might even require surgery to clear out the infection.
A staph skin infection develops when there is a break in the skin. A staph wound is highly contagious through skin-to-skin contact, particularly in crowded living situations or high contact sports.
People can also contract the bacteria by sharing towels, clothing, and razors, and it can spread from high-contact areas like door handles, athletic equipment, and remotes. Staph can survive on linens for days to weeks.
One study showed that staph could survive on dry surfaces for months.6 This highlights the importance of disinfecting surfaces and frequently washing your hands.
Staph infection of the digestive tract occurs after ingesting food that has the bacteria. The bacteria gets into the food from someone with unclean hands who has an infection. Cooking kills the bacteria, but there are toxins that stay in the food and cause stomach symptoms.
Staph pneumonia most often occurs in hospitalized people, those who recently had surgery, or with chronic health conditions like diabetes or a weakened immune system. The bacteria spread from medical equipment, bed rails, and unclean hands in healthcare settings.
Staph infection of the heart is often caused by injection drug use or sharing used needles. A severe staph blood infection can occur in this situation or when another more mild infection spreads out of control.
Keep Wounds Covered
People with a staph skin infection should keep any wounds covered until healed to avoid spreading the bacteria to other people and onto surfaces.
Limiting the Spread in Healthcare Facilities
Hospital systems have several policies and strategies in place to limit the spread of staph in their facilities.
Staph can affect many parts of the body, but it often causes a skin infection. The following are possible outcomes and symptoms from a staph infection:
- Cellulitis: When staph infects the skin, it can cause swelling, redness, pain, and localized warmth.
- Impetigo: Symptoms include small sores or blisters surrounded by a yellow crust. Impetigo most commonly occurs in children.
- Folliculitis: Symptoms include pimples and blisters under hair follicles, typically in the armpit.
- Abscess: A staph skin infection can be deep and lead to an abscess or boil with pus under the skin.
- Gastroenteritis: When staph enters the digestive tract, it causes vomiting and diarrhea.
- Mastitis: This causes pain, redness, and swelling of the breast in breastfeeding people.
- Pneumonia: Staph pneumonia presents with cough, fever, and shortness of breath. It most commonly occurs in people with underlying lung disease or who need a ventilator to breathe.
- Endocarditis: The bacteria can accumulate inside the heart muscle, particularly in people who use illegal injection drugs. This type of infection is called endocarditis, and symptoms include fever, weight loss, and a heart murmur.
- Osteomyelitis: Staph can spread from one part of the body to the bones and joints and lead to deep bone pain.
- Sepsis: When a person develops a staph infection in the blood, sepsis, or blood poisoning, occurs. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, fast heart rate, and low blood pressure.
Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a bacteria that normally resides on people’s skin without causing problems. However, it can cause an infection when it gets under the skin or into the bloodstream. It is highly contagious and can easily spread through certain types of contact.
This article discusses the symptoms of a staph infection, how it spreads, treatment, and prevention.
What Is Staph?
There are many different types of the bacteria Staphylococcus. The strain that most commonly causes infection in humans is Staphylococcus aureus.
The skin is the most common disease site, but the bacteria can also cause problems in the digestive tract, bones, lungs, and heart.
A severe infection occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream and release toxins that cause a condition called sepsis, a powerful response by the body in fighting bacterial blood poisoning.