Staph Infections

by Pam Fadem

Fire Inside received requests for information about staph infections. So we did some research, and this is what we found out.
Staphylococcus bacteria is very common. Many people have staph living harmlessly on their skin all the time, especially around the nose, mouth, genitals, and anus.
Anyone can develop staph infections. But when many people live crowded together, and do not have access to adequate soap and water for washing and cleaning, staph infections can spread and become a serious health problem.
Common staph skin infections cause itchy, white pus-filled bumps on the skin, often where people shave or have irritations from skin rubbing against clothes. Staph also causes boils and abscesses (infections that leave large, red inflammations on the face, neck, buttocks, armpits, and inner thighs), styes (infections in the eyelids) and impetigo (a skin infection around the mouth that goes from a red rash, to blisters and a yellow crust).
Staph can also cause food poisoning, and other serious infections such as Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), pneumonia, bone infections, mastitis (a very painful infection of the breasts of nursing mothers), endocarditis (infection of the inside of the heart), and bacteremia (blood infection).
Hand washing is the best way to prevent staph infections. Bathing or showering every day also helps. Avoid sharing towels, washcloths, sheets, or clothing if you think you have a staph infection.
Quick treatment is important to prevent staph infections from spreading, especially when a lot of people live crowded together.
You can treat most small staph skin infections by washing the skin with an antibacterial soap, applying an antibiotic ointment, and covering the skin with a clean dressing. Wash with soap and water often, and keep the infected area dry and covered with a bandage or a cloth. Use a towel only once when you clean the infected skin, then wash the towel or cloth in hot water.
If an infection turns very red, becomes very sore or is accompanied by fever, see a health care practitioner as soon as possible to get antibiotic pills.
To help relieve pain from a skin infection, soak the skin in warm water, apply hot, moist washcloths to the area, a heating pad or a hot water bottle for about 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day. Use warm compresses over the eye (with the eye closed). Pain relievers like Tylenol, Advil or Motrin can help relieve the pain and fever of an infection.