Staph infection is common among people. It is because the germs causing the problem are already present on your mucous membrane (like the nose) or skin. In the majority of the cases, the bacteria cause you no harm. But, certain problem triggers its reaction leading to minor skin infection to major health problems. With proper medical care, you can avoid life-threatening complications. Read ahead to know more about the infection.
About Staph Infection
Staph infection develops due to staphylococcus bacteria. In healthy individuals, you can always find the bacteria in the nose or skin. But, when the bacteria attack your body and invades the bloodstream, it causes complications. The attack of the bacteria on your organs like bones, joints, heart or lungs can result in death. You must never ignore the bacterial attack as more and more healthy people are developing a life-threatening infection. The infection is contagious. So, direct contact with an infected wound or sore can lead to the transmission of the bacteria. You can also develop the condition when you share personal items like blades razors or sports equipment. These are the common routes of transmission. But, casual contact like hugging or kissing may not put you at risk of developing the infection.
With early medical intervention, you can manage the problem effectively. Based on the severity of the condition, your doctor suggests an ideal treatment plan to manage the problem. So, get the necessary help from your doctor before the problem escalates and becomes deadly.
Symptoms Of Staph Infections
Staph infection triggers minor skin problems to life-threatening complications, leading to death. It can cause a condition like endocarditis that affects the endocardium (inner lining of the heart). The signs and symptoms associated with the bacterial infection vary depending on the location it affects and the severity. Depending on the infection, you can suffer from the following issues:
Staph bacteria can cause different types of skin infections. It includes the following:
It is the most common type of skin infection affecting your skin. The infection causes you to develop boils. It is the pocket of pus that develops in an oil gland or hair follicle. You can see the affected area becoming red and swollen. The breaking of the boil drains the pus. But, it can cause pain. The bold usually develop around the buttocks or groin region. You can also develop it under your arms.
It is a contagious rash, causing severe pain. You develop large blisters on the skin due to the infection by staph bacteria. The blisters tend to ooze fluid and result in the development of the crust (honey-colored)
It is the infection caused by staph bacteria affected the deeper layers of skin. It causes swelling and redness on the skin surface. You can develop ulcers or sores due to the problem. In some cases, certain skin areas can ooze discharge.
Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome
The staph bacteria can produce toxins leading to staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. The condition affects babies and children. So, they can suffer from the following signs:
- Develop a rash
- Blisters that break, causing red and raw surface
Staph bacteria can cause food poisoning. The bacteria are the common culprit behind food poisoning. It can trigger several symptoms that come quickly after eating contaminated food. So, within hours, you can see several signs like:
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
Food poisoning does not cause fever. The symptoms last only for a few hours and can disappear quickly. If it persists, medical intervention is necessary.
When staph bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can result in a severe complication. The bacteria gain access to a location deep inside your body. So, it starts affecting your bones, muscles, internal organs (like lungs, heart or brain), or surgically implanted device. The condition can trigger symptoms like:
- Low blood pressure
Toxic Shock Syndrome
It is the life-threatening condition triggered due to the release of toxins in your body due to the presence of some strains of staph bacteria. The condition occurs due to leaving the tampons in the body for a long time, skin wounds or reaction due to surgery. When a person experiences the problem, it accompanies with the following signs:
- Nausea and vomiting
- A high fever
- Rash that resembles sunburn appears on the soles and palm
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle aches
Infection due to staph bacteria can trigger conditions like septic arthritis. It occurs due to the bacteria targeting the toes, fingers, hips, shoulders, or knees. The condition can trigger symptoms like:
- Experience severe pain in affected joint
- Joint swells
If you see any of the symptoms mentioned above, then seek medical help. Consulting a doctor is necessary to manage the problem. Children are vulnerable to a staph infection. So, pay close attention to the symptoms exhibited by your child. Get immediate medical attention when the child shows the following signs:
- Pus-filled blisters
- Painful skin
- A specific area on the skin with irritation and redness
Seeing a doctor is also necessary when you experience the following:
- A skin infection that spreads among family members (infection passes from one member to another)
- Two or more members of the family suffering from a skin infection at the same time
Causes Of Staph Infection
A genus of bacteria known as Staphylococcus triggers the infection. Also known as staph bacteria, you can get affected by any of the thirty strains (types of bacteria). Staphylococcus aureus is a common strain that affects people. You can carry the bacteria on your skin for a long time. But, many people may not develop the infection. It is usually transmitted from one person to another. The bacteria can live on inanimate objects. So, it can spread to others when you touch or use such objects. It is commonly spread by sharing towels, clothes, pillowcases or razors. The staph bacteria can survive in extreme environments. So, it survives the following:
- Dry your clothes in high temperature
- Subject to extreme temperatures
- High levels of salt
- Exposure to stomach acid
- Extremes of temperature
Risk Factors Associated With Staph Infection
Staph can affect anyone. But, several factors increase the risk of developing a specific infection, including the status of your immune system and the sports you tend to play. Here are the factors influencing the development of infection:
Underlying Health Conditions
If you suffer from an underlying health problem, then you can suffer from staph. Taking medication for certain illness also makes you susceptible to the condition. So, people who experience the following need to maintain caution:
- People with high blood sugar who use insulin
- Suffer from HIV/AIDS
- Kidney disease requiring dialysis
- Weak immune system (due to certain illness or using medication suppressing the immune system)
- People suffering from cancer who undergo radiation or chemotherapy
- Skin condition causing damage (like insect bites, eczema, or minor trauma that breaks or opens the skin)
- Respiratory illness like emphysema or cystic fibrosis
If you have currently or recently hospitalized for any illness, then you can face the risk of infection. It is because staph bacteria remain in hospitals, even with all the necessary precautions. So, it can affect vulnerable people. Patients who suffer from the following problem can develop the infection:
- Weakened immune systems
- Surgical wounds
In some cases, staph bacteria attack your body through the medical tubing. The medical tube connects your internal organs to the outside world. So, people who have the following are at high risk of developing staph:
- Urinary catheters
- Dialysis tubing
- Feeding tube
- Intravascular catheters
- Breathing tubes
Play Contact Sports
Staph bacteria spread from one person to another through abrasions, cuts or skin-to-skin contact. The chances of such issues are common in individuals playing contact sports. It also spreads in the locker room when players share towels, uniforms, razors or equipment.
Unsanitary Food Preparation
Unhygienic food preparation methods can spread the bacteria from a person to the food. So, handlers who fail to wash their hands properly can transfer the infection from their skin to the food they prepare. The contaminated food may not taste awful. It looks and tastes normal. So, you may never suspect the issue.
Body Parts Affected By Staph Infection
When staph bacteria affect your body, you see the signs in various parts. The infection can affect the following parts of your body:
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can affect your skin. So, it causes skin infection. It can lead to blisters, boils, and redness of your skin.
Breastfeeding women can suffer from infection on their breasts. The condition known as mastitis causes severe discomfort. You develop swelling (inflammation) or collection of pus (abscesses) in the breast.
The ingestion of staph bacteria can cause food poisoning. Eating bacteria can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
Staph bacteria can infect the bones. It can lead to inflammation and pain. The condition is also referred to as osteomyelitis.
Lungs And Heart
The bacteria can get into the lungs. It can develop into abscesses and cause pneumonia. You can also suffer from breathing problems. Staph bacteria can also cause big damage to the heart. It affects the heart valves and leads to heart failure.
The bacteria can release toxins. It enters the bloodstream and affects vital body parts. The infection can lead to blood poisoning or septicemia.
Complications Due To Staph Infection
If you fail to get treatment for the complication, it can escalate and cause serious damage. The staph bacteria can invade your bloodstream and trigger a specific type of infection affecting the entire body. The life-threatening infection called sepsis can lead to septic shock. It causes extremely low blood pressure, leading to a shutdown of your vital organs.
Diagnosis Of Staph Infection
If you suspect the condition, then you need to see a doctor. The doctor uses a different diagnostic method to confirm the problem conclusively. So, you need to undergo the following tests:
The doctor conducts a thorough physical examination. During the examination, the doctor closely examines any skin lesions. The skin lesions can point towards issues like a staph infection.
If the doctor suspects the specific infection during the physical examination, then you need to undergo other tests to confirm the problem. A tissue sample or nasal secretion is collected and sent to a lab for testing. The sample shows signs of bacteria when tested under the microscope.
Treatment For Staph Infection
The treatment for staph infection depends on the type of bacteria triggering the problem. So, your doctor first tries to identify the bacteria behind the infection. It will help select the ideal medication to deal with the condition. The underlying cause of the infection also helps in deciding the treatment. Therefore, people suffering from the infection have the following treatment options:
Based on the types of bacteria affects your system, the doctor can suggest the following types of antibiotics:
- Topical antibiotics to apply on the affected skin
- Oral antibiotics for treating an infection in the body and skin
- Intravenous to treat severe cases of infection
Most antibiotics can treat the strains of curable bacteria. Doctors suggest vancomycin, which has proved effective in treating bacterial strains that are resistant to other traditional medications. But, to overcome the problem, you need to follow the guidelines suggested by your doctor. Finish all the medications (oral antibiotics) as suggested by your doctor. Talk to your doctor about the signs that indicate worsening of the problem. You need to watch out for them and take the necessary actions.
For boil or abscess, your doctor might suggest wound drainage. So, a small incision is made on the sore to let the pus out. Draining the pus collected will offer relief.
Removing Affected Device
If you have an infection surrounding any medical device, then it needs immediate removal. So, people who develop an infection on a joint replacement or the pacemaker need to remove the device to get rid of the infection. It is also required when the prosthetic suffers an infection. In such cases, the doctor removes prosthetic immediately. You need to undergo surgery to remove such devices.
The staph bacteria are adaptable. So, many varieties of bacteria have become adaptable to different antibiotics. For example, only a small percentage (10%) of people suffering from the infection can get relief by using penicillin. The emergence of more severe strains of staph bacteria, like the antibiotic-resistant strains (MRSA), needs stronger antibiotics to treat the condition. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) strains need IV antibiotics to overcome the problem.
Preventing Staph Infection
People who are at high risk of developing the infection like athletes need to take some steps to prevent it. The common sense precautions lower the risk of the infection. So, you can follow the pointers suggested:
Wash Your Hands
Your hand contains germs. So, careful hand-washing can avoid issues caused due to staph bacteria. When you wash your hands, take care to rub your hands at least twenty seconds briskly with liquid or solid soap. Then, dry your hands with a disposable towel. Never use your hands directly to turn off the faucet. Use a towel for the purpose. If you see no visible dirt on your hands, then use a hand sanitizer. Choose a brand that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Cover Your Wounds
If you sustained any wounds or scrapes, then keep them covered. The cuts and abrasion covered in dry, sterile bandages can prevent an attack from the germs and promote wound healing. When the wound becomes infected, it causes pus to ooze out. The pus from such infected sores contains bacteria covered to triggering staph infection. So, keep the wounds covered to prevent the bacteria from spreading.
Reduce Tampon Risks
Women using tampons during their period need to maintain caution. They are susceptible to toxic shock syndrome. It is caused by staph bacteria present in the tampons left inside the vagina for a long time. When you leave the tampons for a long time, it becomes a breeding ground for staph bacteria. So, you need to avoid risk by changing tampons frequently. Changing the tampons every four to eight hours can reduce bacterial growth. Try to use low absorbent tampons, which can prompt you to change it frequently. You can also use sanitary napkins whenever possible to reduce the chances of infection.
Avoid Sharing Personal Items
Many infections spread to others when they share their personal items. You need to keep personal items personal. So, never share the following with others:
Staph bacteria can spread from one person to another due to the sharing of intimate items.
Wash In Hot Water
You need to wash your clothes as well as bedding in hot water. It is essential for people who face a high risk of developing problems. The high temperature of the water can get the bacteria off the sheets and clothes. So, try to use hot water whenever possible. Also, use bleach on materials that can handle it to get rid of all the germs. Drying in a dryer is better to eliminate the germs compared to air drying. But, it is not a sure case as some staph bacteria remain even after drying in a dryer at high temperatures.
Take Precautions For Food
You have to take food safety precautions to avoid spreading of infection through food. So, always wash your hands before handling food or food items. If you have kept the food outside for some time, then heat it before you eat it. Food that is heated (above 60 degrees Celsius or 140 F) can kill bacteria. Else, refrigerate the food and keep them at 4.4 degrees Celsius (40F) or below. Leftover food needs immediate refrigeration to avoid breeding of germs.
Precautions For Athletes
Staph is a common problem among people who are into sports. So, athletes in contact sports or football are prone to specific infections compared to others. It is because of the nature of sports. The athletes tend to have more skin-to-skin contact with other players. So, it increases the chances of getting cut and bruises. The warm and moist conditions in the locker rooms also encourage the growth of staph bacteria. Therefore, to avoid infection among the athletes, they need to take the following precautions:
- Cover the wounds sustained on the field with a clean bandage. Never touch other people’s bandage as it contains bacteria.
- Wash your hands before and after playing or practicing sports.
- You need to shower immediately after exercising.
- Never share your personal items with your teammates. So, keep your soap, towels, or razors from others.
- If you have to share your sports equipment, then clean it well before use. You can wipe it with wet wipes or antiseptic solution before using it again. Try to use a towel or clothing to keep a barrier between your skin and the equipment.
- Sportspersons tend to have a common sauna, whirlpool or hot tub. But, never use it if you suspect another person with open sores has used it. Use a towel or clothing barrier when you use such facilities to prevent infection.
- Do not share splints, bandages, or braces.
- You need to check the cleanliness of the shared shower facilities before taking a shower. If they seem unclean, then use the shower at home.
Staph infection needs treatment to avoid any complication. The contagious nature of the infection makes it a problem that needs attention as early as possible. Since the problem occurs from the bacteria already present on your skin, it remains unclear about the incubation period of the bacteria. So, getting medical assistance can help you manage the problem and prevent further complications.
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