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Staph Infections  
Keeping a minor scrape from becoming a major problem.

 

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Gerber Life Family Times Archive

HealthGetting a "boo-boo," cut, or scrape is a big part of being a kid. Be it a scrape from a stumble during those first awkward days of learning to walk or a cut while roughhousing with the neighborhood kids, the occasional injury is an expected part of growing up. For the most part, a quick clean-up, a bandage, and a kiss from Mom to "make it all better" does the job and they're off again for more of the same. However, in some cases, those cuts and scrapes become infected and refuse to heal. And, in a growing number of cases, the condition may continue to worsen. In such cases, the condition may be made worse by the existence of a Staph or Staphylococcus aureus infection.

The Mayo Clinic notes that Staph bacteria are normally found on the skin or in the nose of approximately one-third of the population. That percentage of the population who have Staph on their skin or in their nose but aren't sick, are said to be "colonized." They can remain healthy but pass the germs on to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Staph bacteria are the most common cause of skin infections in the United States. These minor infections, including boils and pimples, are usually treated without antibiotics. More serious Staph infections may require the use of a regime of antibiotics to rid the body of the infection. More serious Staph infections are most commonly associated with healthcare facilities and healthcare workers and show up in bloodstream infections, surgical wounds, and pneumonia.

Recently, an even more serious variation of the Staph bacteria known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus has been making the news. The Mayo Clinic refers to MRSA as "one of the first germs to outwit all but the most powerful drugs." This new form of the bacteria has developed a resistance to the standard antibiotics that were once effective against it. The Mayo Clinic notes that the leading causes of this new strain of Staph's antibiotic resistance are:

  • Unnecessary use of antibiotics in humans that has occurred for decades when antibiotics were prescribed for colds, flu, and other viral infections that do not respond well to antibiotic use and would normally clear on their own.
  • Antibiotics in the food and water supply which are found in the beef, pork, and poultry in our daily diets. For decades, farmers fed their livestock feeds that were treated with antibiotics, thus getting it into the food cycle. In addition, the same antibiotics eventually make their way into municipal water supplies when the runoff from feedlots contaminates groundwater and streams.
  • Germ mutation occurs even when antibiotics are used properly. Bacteria evolve quickly and the few bacteria that aren't killed by a cycle of antibiotics can eventually adapt and develop their resistance.

The Mayo Clinic notes that as this drug-resistant form of Staph has begun to appear in the wider community, it has become known as community-associated MRSA or CA-MRSA. The Mayo Clinic also notes that CA-MRSA can be particularly dangerous in children since their immune systems are not fully developed and they do not yet have the antibodies to common germs. The CDC notes that Staph infections are most likely to occur under the following conditions:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a Staph infection
  • Contact with items and surfaces that have the Staph bacteria on them
  • Openings in he skin such as cuts and scrapes
  • Crowded living conditions
  • Poor hygiene

To decrease the likelihood of your family members getting a Staph infection, the CDC recommends the following steps to keep the Staph bacteria from spreading:

  • Wash your hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and cover them with bandages.
  • Do not touch other people's cuts or bandages.
  • Do not share personal items such as towels or razors.

HealthThe Mayo Clinic makes particular note that people (including children) should avoid sharing clothing and athletic equipment since CA-MRSA has been spread in both amateur and professional sports teams. So be particularly observant if your child participates in organized sports. The Mayo Clinic also advises that you should keep an eye on minor skin problems such as cuts, scrapes, pimples, and insect bites—especially in children. If a wound becomes infected, see your doctor and ask to have any skin infection tested for MRSA before starting an antibiotic treatment. This will help the healthcare provider determine the type of bacteria that is present since drugs used to treat ordinary Staph are not effective against MRSA and could lead to even more serious illness and more drug resistant bacteria.

Cuts and scrapes are a part of life—especially if you're a kid. A regular cycle of good hygiene practices, prompt and thorough care of injured areas, observation of injured sites, and adherence to some simple preventative steps will go a long way toward keeping your family members healthy and protected in the fight against Staph.

Always consult with your family physician or healthcare provider regarding any health-related issues.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—www.cdc.gov
The Mayo Clinic—www.mayoclinic.com

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.



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