You’ve probably heard of a staph infection before and how easily they are contracted. The bacterial colony responsible, S. aureus, is particularly robust and can survive for months on dry surfaces before infecting a new host. Wrestling mats are notorious for aiding in the spread of staph infections, as are hospital environments, even when great care is given to sterilization and cleanliness. So how do you know if you’ve got a staph infection? MRSA is one of the more serious types of staph infections, and it shares all the same symptoms as a traditional staph infection. Here are some things to keep an eye out for. If you think you may have a staph infection, contact your doctor immediately for a medical diagnosis and treatment.
When the S. aureus bacteria finds a way into your skin, it causes bumps that at first glance look like pimples or spider bites. They usually cause some swelling and tenderness in the nearby skin, which can turn red or even purple with time. Sometimes you will see a white dot at the center of the bump where the pus is collecting. This is how the bacteria spreads, so it is critical that you not try to drain the pus. If the head bursts on it’s own, use a disposable cloth to clean the area and carefully wash you hands and skin afterwards.
Depending on the exact characteristics of the bumps or rash, they may be classified as boils, folliculitis (bump at a hair follicle), impetigo (common on the face), abscess (deeper beneath the skin), or cellulitis (the most tender of all). They are all somewhat tender or itchy, and may feel warm to the touch. If left untreated, the pain and swelling will increase as the infection spreads. A topical ointment can be used to dull the pain and help with the inflammation. You can also apply a clean hot compress 2-3 times a day to help loosen the pus buildups.
Signs that the Staph Infection is Spreading
While the initial signs are simply those of a superficial skin infection, the bacteria can eventually get into your bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body. An internal infection is generally accompanied by a fever or chills, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, nausea, acute pain, and shortness of breath. If the patient has a history of lung disease, he or she is likely to develop abscesses on the lungs, which leads to pneumonia. If the bacteria reaches the heart, it can cause Endocarditis, making the patient prone to heart failure. A staph infection can cause inflammation in the bones, or Osteomyelitis, or a more widespread infection of the circulatory system, called sepsis.
The S. aureus bacteria produce enterotoxins, which are stored in the bacterial cell walls and can be released even after the bacteria are dead. These toxins are not contagious, but exposure can cause food poisoning or toxic shock syndrome. Many of us have had food poisoning at one time or another, indicating that we ate food contaminated with some of the staph enterotoxins. Our bodies are pretty good at expelling these toxins without any help, and the nausea usually subsides in 48 hours or less. Toxic Shock Syndrome is generally limited to women who use tampons, and the symptoms mimic those of food poisoning but are accompanied by low blood pressure and a rash.
Your doctor can conduct a culture test to confirm that you have a staph infection. This bacterial screening is the only conclusive test, and it is necessary in order to direct your antibiotic regiment for treatment.