Staph infections, technically called staphylococcal skin infections, stem from a particular type of bacteria called Staphylococcus. These skin infections typically occur on the skin of the face, feet, arms, shoulders and in the nose, and less commonly occur around other parts of the body, such as the mouth and genitals. Extremely contagious, staph infections can be contracted by any person or animal. There are ways to prevent contracting a staph infection, which are best understood with solid information about this persistent and unsightly skin condition.
Identification and Symptoms
Punctured skin that is draining fluid is the first cause for staph infection concern. A staph infection makes the skin appear bright red and swollen, and as the pus-drainage increases, the patient will also experience mild pain, which increases as the infection worsens. Many staph infections begin as abscesses, technically referred to as boils or furnacles, on the skin. Staph infections can also be in the form of folliculitus, when pus-filled red blisters expand around the hair follicles. Crusted lesions and blisters, called impetigo, are also common forms of staph infections.
The bacteria that causes staph infections, called staphylococci bacteria, lives safely on the skin surface of 20 to 30 percent of adults, reports Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler of MedicineNet.com. The bacteria remains harmless until it is able to seep into an open wound on the skin. Any injury or damage that punctures the skin makes it vulnerable to disease-threatening, infectious staphylococci bacteria. A variety of illnesses can be caused by more than 30 types of staph bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus, or S. aureus, is the specific type of bacteria that causes staph infections, which can turn into more serious illnesses and diseases beyond the initial skin irritation. Cellulitus is the medical name for the skin infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus.
Causes and Contagiousness
Staph infections are contracted from contact with the infected bacteria, which can be from other people, animals, and contaminated objects. This skin condition is extremely contagious, and microscopic-sized bacteria can be transferred with one simple touch. An infected person is sometimes unaware in the infections first stages, when the skin irritation appears minor, like a rash or an acne reaction. After the condition is diagnosed, all people exposed to the patient at least a week before the diagnoisis should carefully examine their skin for beginning signs of infection, and consult a doctor. Staph infections can worsen and become serious. Children often are culprits for spreading the infection, since they habitually touch their face and often put their fingers in their nose, where the infectious bacteria is common.
People Prone to Staph Infections
Staph infections can be obtained by anyone, children or adult. Certain health conditions cause people to be more prone to infections, however. Weak immune systems, and skin conditions such as eczema make people more vulnerable to infection. Diabetes also weakens protection from bacterial infection. Breastfeeding mothers and newborn babies are also at a higher risk for contracting staph infections.
Diagnosis After Exposure
Cultures or blood samples instantly identify the bacteria of a staph infection. Doctors prescribe antibiotics, and provide patients with antiseptic topical creams upon diagnosis. Regardless of how quickly the infection's visibility seems to diminish, the patient must never assume that the infectious bacteria is gone until confirmed by the doctor. It is crucial the treated area remain as clean and dry as possible at all times. Drainage that occurs before and during treatment can easily spread the bacteria to bed linens and clothes, which must all be washed and disinfected. If a patient is not found to have a staph infection, but lives in the presence of an infected person, there are crucial preventative methods that must be followed (listed below).
Proper hygiene is the most effective way to avoid staph infection. Do not share clothes or linens if living in a multi-person environment. Use caution with any cuts or open wounds, regardless of size, keeping them clean, applying anti-bacterial ointments, and covering them with bandages. Keep the feet covered when walking on the ground of public facilities, such as pool areas and gyms, where bacteria grows and spreads easily. Do not share sports equipment, makeup, toiletries, or razors. Be sure that children are not sharing toys or picking their noses. Sneeze into tissues when possible.