By Alfredo Lim, M.D.
With the kids back in school, this time of year means homework, soccer practice and—sometimes—illness.
One to watch out for, especially if your child participates in sports, is an infection with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, also known as MRSA. A type of staph bacteria, MRSA is resistant to certain antibiotics.
MRSA causes a skin infection that usually appears where there has been a break in the skin through a cut or an abrasion. The infected area may be painful and appear red and swollen and have pus or other drainage. Untreated infections may spread and become severe, even life-threatening.
MRSA is a communicable disease, meaning it can be spread through direct contact with someone’s skin infection or personal items he/she has used. MRSA can be spread anywhere that items such as towels, clothing and razors are shared, including gyms and health clubs.
MRSA also can be transmitted in healthcare facilities where patients already may have weakened immune systems. To prevent the spread of MRSA infections, health care providers are trained to follow strict infection control procedures.
Once MRSA is confirmed by a lab test, your child’s physician will prescribe an antibiotic targeting the specific bacteria. Make sure your child takes all the prescribed antibiotic to ensure that the infection is completely gone. Depending on the severity of the infection, the doctor may need to drain the wound.
To reduce the chances of acquiring a MRSA infection, follow proper hand washing procedures. After using the bathroom and when returning home from outings, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. It’s also important to cover any cuts and scrapes to avoid coming into contact with MRSA. And, of course, avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
If you have a skin infection, see your doctor for expert diagnosis and treatment.