Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Staph Infections 101

Treatment and Prevention of Staph Infections

Staph infections are a strange entity to deal with because their treatment is what has led to their strength. By using antibiotics, the bacteria have adapted and learned new tricks, turning strains like MRSA into a superbug. If you think you've got a staph infection, you should see your doctor immediately.

Once you're in the doctor's office, a tissue sample or nasal secretion sample will reveal to your doctor whether your infection is staph-related.

If your doctor is able to identify the bacteria behind the infection, he or she will decide whether an antibiotic is necessary. As we mentioned earlier, many strains of staph are resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin and methicillin. When confined to the skin, a doctor may first try to drain the fluid before using antibiotics. Although the bacteria still remain, this clears away the initial infection.

The best way to deal with a staph infection is to not get one. The prevention methods are remarkably easy and resemble the list of hygiene tips your grandmother might have given you:

  • Isolation. If you're in the hospital, there isn't much you can do yourself to prevent a staph infection. However, the hospital may isolate a patient who is infected and require the health care workers to wear protective garments when dealing with him or her.
  • Don't share personal items. This one might seem like common sense, but it's good to remind teens and athletes alike not to share towels or athletic wear.
  • Cover your wounds. Again, common sense here, but since the pus of infected areas is where staph bacteria like to live, be sure to keep this area covered with a sterile bandage.
  • Wash your hands often. Do it just like grandma always told you: Scrub your hands briskly for 30 seconds with warm water and soap. A good rule of thumb is to hum "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to yourself twice while washing before turning off the water. Hand sanitizer is a good idea for when you're on the go, too.
  • Change out tampons. You'll be significantly lowering your chances at getting toxic shock syndrome if you change your tampon every four to eight hours.
  • Don't pick your nose. We probably don't need to mention this one, but since staph love the area around your nose and mouth, it's important to keep your fingers away from there.

[source: CDC]

For lots more information about staph infections, continue on to the next page.