A staph infection is an infection caused by common bacteria. It may cause a simple skin infection or develop into an infection in the bloodstream or major organs.
The bacteria that cause staph infections are often present on the skin without causing problems. An infection develops when there is a break in the skin and the bacteria enters the body. The bacteria may only affect local skin tissue or can enter the bloodstream and pass to other areas of the body such as the heart, bones, or joints.
An open wound in your skin increases your risk of infection. This includes minor cuts, punctures, or scrapes or larger injuries like surgical wounds.
Other factors that can increase your chance of general infection include:
Symptoms will depend on the location of the infection and if the infection has spread.
Initial skin infection can cause an area of skin that is:
You may also have a fever and drainage/pus or crusting at the site.
Infections that have spread to other areas of the body may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. The infected area will be examined. Your doctor may suspect a staph infection based on the exam. A sample of the affected area may also be taken and sent to a lab. The lab will be able to confirm the specific type of bacteria causing the problem.
Treatment will be based on the specific infection and your overall health. Not all infections will require treatment. Those that do may require one or more of the following:
Some staph bacteria, called MRSA, can be resistant to more common antibiotics. An antibiotic will be chosen based on the specific type of bacteria causing the infection.
Keep in mind that drainage from an infected wound is very contagious. Carefully dispose of bandages that have come in contact with your wound. Wash your hand before and after touching the area.
To help reduce your chance of a staph infection:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T189788/Methicillin-resistant-Staphylococcus-aureus-MRSA. Updated January 6, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Staph infections. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/staph.html. Updated June 2014. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus. Minnesota Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/staph/index.html. August 14, 2017.
Last reviewed August 2017 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.