How can I get rid of this stubborn staph infection?

Suzanne Berman, MD

Staphylococcal infections (“staph”) can cause painful, angry red boils on the skin. Frequently, these skin infections clear up quickly after the boil is lanced and the child begins taking prescription antibiotics. Unfortunately, these infections recur frequently, sometimes three or four times within just a few months. Families get frustrated with taking multiple rounds of antibiotics. Sometimes parents even begin to worry that their child might have a severe underlying problem that makes their child susceptible to skin infections.

The good news is that immune deficiencies that cause recurrent skin infections are pretty rare. The bad news is that the staph bacteria is very tough to get rid of completely, once it’s on your skin.

What is MRSA?
MRSA (pronounced “mur-sah”) stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcal aureus. Methicillin is a kind of antibiotic that, as the name implies, is no longer good at killing the staph germ.

MRSA, like any germ, has the potential to cause serious or even life-threatening infectins. Most of the time, though, it isn’t really dangerous, just stubborn — not too hard to cut down temporarily, but nearly impossible to get rid of completely.

How can I get rid of this stubborn staph infection?

In addition to taking the prescription antibiotic, be sure to:

  • Use a topical prescription antibiotic like Bactroban (mupirocin) inside the nostrils twice daily for 1-2 weeks. Children tend to harbor staph in their noses. Apply a small ribbon of antibiotic gel to the inside of both nostrils with a Q-tip.
  • Use a bleach solution in the bath as a body wash. You can use ½ cup of bleach in a full bath of water or 1 tsp per gallon of bathwater. Sit in the tub for 15 minutes at least twice a week. You can also put about a 1/2 tsp of bleach into a 32 ounce plastic “trigger squirt” bottle, fill the rest of the bottle with water, and use it as a “body spray” in the shower. (Be sure to avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth.) If bleach cannot be used, you can use prescription Hibiclens.
  • Keep fingernails short and clean.
  • Change and wash every day:
    • towels
    • washcloths
    • pillowcases
    • bedding
    • underwear
    • pajamas
  • Dry towel and clothes in a hot dryer, as opposed to a clothesline.
  • Don’t let family members share towels or other common household items, like razors.
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Last modified 09/3/11