What is a staph infection?

Staph infections generally cause minor skin symptoms. But some can spread to major organs, leading to life-threatening complications.

Staphylococcus aureus, or "staph," is a type of bacteria often found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people. In these places, staph is harmless. But if staph gets inside the body through a cut or wound, it can cause an infection.

A staph infection can happen anytime the skin is broken.

What staph can do

In many cases, a staph infection will cause minor skin problems such as pimples or boils, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the infection can also cause serious and potentially deadly health problems, such as pneumonia.

Treating staph infections

To treat a minor staph infection on your skin, wash the skin with an antibacterial cleanser, put on an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a clean gauze bandage. Keep the infection from spreading by using disposable towels or washing towels right after you use them.

If your infection is serious, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. However, antibiotics don't always work against staph. That's because some types of staph bacteria, such as MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, have become resistant to antibiotics.

Researchers are working on other ways to treat the infection. You can help keep bacteria from becoming resistant by using antibiotics only when a doctor prescribes them and following the directions on the prescription carefully.

Prevent infection

The best way to prevent a staph infection is to stay clean. Wash your hands often and make sure to clean and cover any cuts, scrapes or allergic rashes right away.

Reviewed 5/9/2022

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