Recognizing Staph Infections

It’s a common diagnosis but doctors say staph infections can be prevented.

Dr. Michelle Hoffman, a pediatric infectious disease physician, says staph lives in warm moist areas but can quickly become a staph infection once the area is exposed. “Staph actually likes to live on the skin in the front of the nose. It often lives there perfectly fine not causing any infection. It’s when you get a break in the skin that you end up getting an infection.”

Staph infections are very common and contagious. “When you leave a staph infection untreated it can progress causing systemic disease, including infection in the blood, it can also cause meningitis, or pneumonia, so it is a potentially serious infection,” said Dr. Hoffman.

Staph is typically spread by contact. Adult patients commonly get staph at the gym, making it important to wipe down gym equipment before and after use. Also, don’t share towels or reuse wash cloths. For children, make sure they don’t sit too long in a dirty diaper. It can cause them to develop a staph infection on their skin. “The most common symptoms of staph infections in children are skin and soft tissue infections, so typically a pimple like lesion, or a boil, or an abscess. It’ll look red, hot, be warm, and often have puss,” said Dr. Hoffman.

The infection can be very painful and, if left untreated, it can spread throughout the body. “There are strains of staph that we can use a typical antibiotic for and you can usually give those by mouth to treat the infection,” said Dr. Hoffman.

Patients will typically be rid of the staph infection within two to three weeks of treatment.

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