Recognizing a Staph Infection: Health Tip

Recognizing a Staph Infection: Health Tip

A staph infection is caused by bacteria commonly found on the skin or in the nose. Though usually minor, staph infections can become deadly if the germs invade the bloodstream or bones, says Mayo Clinic.

Serious staph infections have a range of possible symptoms, including fever, nausea or joint swelling.

As a rule of thumb, if there's an area of red, irritated skin, pus-filled blisters or a fever, see a doctor without delay.

What Is a Staph Infection

Staphylococcus is a type of bacteria that can cause many types of infections in your body. Commonly referred to as Staph (pronounced "staff"), it is common bacteria found on most people's skin, and often it does not cause disease.

More than 30 types of Staphylococci bacteria cause infections, but the most common type of Staph infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus.

If the bacteria gains access to the body, either through a wound on the skin or via the respiratory tract, it can cause serious infections.

Who Is at Risk for Staph Infections?

  • Newborns
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular or lung disease
  • Cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Those who inject drugs or medications
  • Skin injuries or disorders
  • Surgical incisions
  • Use of intravenous catheters

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Staph Infection?

Symptoms of staphylococcal disease of the skin include pus-filled abscesses (also called boils or furuncles).

Pain, swelling, and redness in the area of the infection is common, along with drainage of pus.

If the staph infection is in the blood (called bacteremia or sepsis) symptoms can include fever, chills, and low blood pressure (hypotension).

What Types of Diseases Are Caused by Staph?

Staphylococcus causes many different types of infections.

Most of the infections cause localized inflammation or pockets of infection known as abscesses. Superficial skin infections such as impetigo (a crusting of the skin) or cellulitis (an infection of the skin layers) are the most common.

Breastfeeding women can get a staph infection of the breast called mastitis, which can release bacteria into the mother's milk.

Staph bacteria in the lungs can cause pneumonia.

When a Staph infection gets into the bone it can cause osteomyelitis. Staph infection in the blood can also infect the heart or heart valves (endocarditis).

If the Staph infection gets into the bloodstream it can spread to other organs and cause severe and life-threatening infections (bacteremia or sepsis).

Sepsis can lead to shock or multi-organ failure, which can rapidly lead to death.

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