So, when should you worry about catching or passing a skin infection to others? Cellulitis, for example, is very difficult to catch from an infected person. Although it is possible, the other person's infection would have to directly touch your skin, and then the bacteria would have to spread to an opening on your skin, making it an unlikely situation [source: Steckelberg].
The bacteria that cause folliculitis can be passed from person to person if proper hygiene is not practiced. Do not share towels with others, and use a clean towel each time you bathe if you do have an infection. Avoid scratching the affected area, because your hands can then transfer the bacteria elsewhere [source: WebMD].
Close contact with a person who has a boil or carbuncle can cause you to be infected by the same bacteria. To avoid infection, practice proper hygiene by washing your hands frequently, keeping your infections covered and not sharing personal items [source: Mayo Clinic].
Impetigo is one of the more contagious bacterial skin infections. Those who are infected should stay home and avoid contact with others to keep from spreading the disease. It also is important to avoid sharing items, such as towels, clothing and pillows, that could transfer bacteria to an uninfected person [source: WebMD]. If necessary, cover the infected area to keep from scratching, because this can transfer the infection to other people or to other parts of your body. Washing your hands frequently or wearing gloves when you're around an infected person also can help stop the spread of infection [source: Mayo Clinic].
Bacterial skin infections can range from a nuisance to downright nasty, but by practicing good hygiene and seeking medical advice when appropriate, you can limit the toll they take on your skin. To learn more, visit the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Berman, Kevin, M.D., Ph.D. "Hair Follicle Anatomy." MedlinePlus. Nov. 13, 2006. (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/9703.htm
- New Zealand Dermatological Society Inc. "Bacterial Skin Infections." July 24, 2009. (Accessed 8/1/09) http://dermnetnz.org/bacterial
- Mayo Clinic. "Boils and Carbuncles." Oct. 18, 2008. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/boils-and-carbuncles/DS00466
- Mayo Clinic. "Cellulitis." Jan. 15, 2008. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cellulitis/DS00450
- Mayo Clinic. "Folliculitis." Oct. 5, 2007. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/folliculitis/DS00512
- Mayo Clinic. "Impetigo." Oct. 4, 2008. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/impetigo/DS00464
- Steckelberg, James M, M.D. "Is Cellulitis Contagious?" Mayo Clinic. Feb. 6, 2008. (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cellulitis/AN00745
- Stulberg, Daniel L, M.D.; Marc A. Penrod, M.D.; and Richard A. Blatny, M.D. "Common Bacterial Skin Infections." American Family Physician 66:119-24. July 1, 2002. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020701/119.html
- University of Virginia Health System. "Bacterial Skin Infections." Feb. 12, 2004. (Accessed 8/1/09) http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/uvahealth/adult_derm/bacteria.cfm
- WebMD. "Boils." Aug. 10, 2005. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/boils
- WebMD. "Cellulitis." March 22, 2007. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/cellulitis-topic-overview
- WebMD. "Folliculitis." June 26, 2007. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/folliculitis-topic-overview
- WebMD. "Impetigo." Aug. 4, 2008. (Accessed 8/1/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/impetigo-overview