A staph infection is the shorter, more common name for the staphylococcal infection. This is a group of infections that are caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria, which gain entry to the body through a cut or break in the skin. From here it depends on how deep the bacteria get into what kind of symptoms will be present. The infections range from skin and soft tissue infections to more invasive infections in the bones and blood. The skin infections can be treated with antibiotics or creams, but the invasive infections are usually dealt with in a hospital with antibiotic injections. The result of infection is broad; here are the most common symptoms of a staph infection, so you know what to look for.
Itchy White Bumps
Uncomfortable and itchy white bumps or lumps can appear on the skin as the result of a staph infection in the hair follicles. This is called Folliculitis, and it occurs when the small sac from where a hair grows out from, the hair follicle, becomes infected with the staphylococcus bacteria. As the hair follicle is deep in the skin, the infection also begins quite deep; the pus in the sac forms and cannot get out. These bumps may grow into a boil and eventually burst, draining the pus and freeing the hair follicle.
Swelling and Tenderness
Swelling and tenderness are common in a staph infection of the skin. If a sore, boil or lump does not appear after the skin has been red and tender, it may be a sign of Cellulitis. Cellulitis is when there is a bacterial infection within the layers of skin, fat, and tissues that lay beneath the first layer of skin. The affected area progresses to becoming hot, painful and even blistered. It can also make you feel rather unwell and experience nausea and other flu-like symptoms.
Blisters and Sores
If you notice small red blisters around your mouth and nose that are itchy but not painful, you may be suffering from non-bullous impetigo, the most common form of impetigo. After a few days, these blisters will burst and develop a brownish-yellow crust, but the crust will heal with minimal to no scarring. If you find that you’re developing larger blisters that are more painful, you may have bullous impetigo (though this usually occurs in small children). These blisters will also form a yellowish crust after bursting but generally heal without scarring. Both of these types of impetigo are caused by a staph infection and can be treated with topical antibiotics. Because impetigo is highly contagious, it’s important to see your physician right away to begin treatment.
If you have a wound on the skin, it may become infected with the staph bacteria. If your open wound is healing much slower than you would normally heal, it may be infected. Two specific, sure signs that a wound is infected are when you see pus or liquid trapped in or leaking from the wound and if it has an unpleasant odor. Infected wounds need to be treated immediately by a trained health professional as prolonging the infection can lead to other complications.
One of the most serious cases of a staph skin infection is called a staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS). This is when the staph bacteria under the skin releases a toxin that works its way to the surface, causing the skin to blister and peel. It will be red and very painful, much like severe sunburn or scalding from boiling water. Your internal temperature may also be high, and you’ll find the peeling skin falling away from the area. This condition is, unfortunately, most common in children under the age of five.
Joint pain from a staph infection can occur when the bacteria grow within a joint in the body. This is known as an invasive staph infection from the S. aureus bacteria. Septic arthritis can occur from germs that travel from one area of the body to another through the bloodstream, or from direct penetrating injury to the area. Most common in knees, hips, and shoulders, the joint will become very swollen, painful, and tender around the joint and bones. You may also have a fever. As the infection is within a joint, either medical draining and antibiotics are required to heal the infection.
An infection of the bone is another invasive staph infection and often occurs in the larger limbs, such as a leg bone. However, it has been known to appear in the vertebrae in the back. This is called Osteomyelitis. The pain from the large bone being infected can be quite severe and will restrict your range of movement in the area. The limb will become red, swollen, warm, and tender to touch. You’ll probably develop a sudden high temperature, and a general feeling of unease and nausea are likely. Biopsies and x-rays are needed to determine the diagnosis, and it can be quite a difficult process.
You can also contract a staph infection through food poisoning. Usually from 30 minutes to six hours after eating food contaminated with the S. aureus bacteria the symptoms will appear. You’ll get nauseous, and your stomach will start cramping, which will then lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Once your body has expelled the virus, it will still need some time to recover. Even if you stop vomiting and going to the bathroom, you will feel weak and tired and unwell. All symptoms should be gone after one to three days. If they do not, you will need to seek medical attention.
Not many people are aware that pneumonia is also a form of invasive staphylococcal infection. It is an infection of the lungs that can be very serious if left untreated. Symptoms include a rapid heartbeat along with a very high temperature such as 38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or above. You may have chills, be sweating and shivering, lose your appetite and experience chest pain along with a dry cough. Mostly you will have difficulty breathing. Your breathing is labored even when you are resting, and this can be very worrying for those experiencing the condition.