A child normally has many germs on his or her skin and in nasal passages. About a third of people in the U.S. carry the MRSA bacteria. Many people with MRSA don’t know it. These germs normally don’t cause a problem. But MRSA can cause an infection if a child’s skin gets scratched or cut, or his or her immune system is weak. The infection may be a small blister, or it may spread into the bloodstream and cause widespread problems.
MRSA infections were first seen mostly in hospitals and nursing homes. MRSA infections are still most common in a hospital. But as more people carry MRSA on their skin and in nasal passages, the risk for infection outside healthcare places is higher.
A child may pick up MRSA by:
If MRSA gets through your child’s skin through a cut or other wound, he or she may get an active MRSA infection.
A child is more at risk for MRSA if he or she has any of these:
MRSA infections are more common in groups of people that spend a lot of time close together. This includes children on a sports team. MRSA may be on sports equipment, clothing, and may transfer from skin to skin during play.
A MRSA infection often starts as a skin infection. The bacteria get through the skin through an open wound. For children, the most common place of infection is through a simple cut or scrape.
The symptoms of a MRSA skin infection may include any of the below:
Signs of a systemic infection include any of the above, plus:
This type of infection needs treatment right away.
The symptoms of MRSA can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. If caught early, a MRSA infection can be easy to treat.
If your child has a mild MRSA skin infection, the healthcare provider will likely treat it by opening the infected sore and draining out the fluid (pus). You will likely be given a prescription antibiotic ointment to use on your child. Your child may also need to take antibiotic medicine by mouth. The healthcare provider will tell you how to keep your child’s wound clean and covered while it heals.
If the infection has spread to other parts of the body, your child may need treatment with IV antibiotics in the hospital. In some cases, such as infection of the joints, your child may need surgery to drain the infection.
If taking antibiotic medicine by mouth, make sure your child:
Many infections can be cured within 1 week, but may take longer. The healthcare provider may want to follow up and make sure the infection is gone.
If the infection returns often, your child’s healthcare provider may advise special bathing such as:
Another way to manage MRSA infection is to remove the bacteria from places where they often live and grow, such as the nose. Your child’s healthcare provider may advise using medicine in your child's nose to kill MRSA there.
Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.
If not treated, a MRSA skin infection may:
You can help protect your child. Teach your child to do the following:
Children may be at risk in crowded places where infections can spread easily through contact. This includes daycare. Ask about the steps taken to prevent the spread of infection. These should include regularly disinfecting surfaces, toys, and mats.
Children who play sports are also at more risk for infection. They need to take extra care and do the following:
If you or your child has a MRSA infection, tell people in your household, school, and sports teams. They can take steps to protect others from infection.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Get medical care for your child right away if you notice symptoms. A MRSA infection can quickly become severe if not treated.
Don't try to treat a MRSA infection on your own. This can spread the infection to other people or make it worse for your child. Cover the infected area, wash your hands, and call your child's healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: