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Learning More About MRSA

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

If your child should contact a potentially deadly bacteria infection, you’d want to know as much about that infection as possible, right?  You are not alone.

Parents and caregivers of children with a drug-resistant methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infection) say they need better information, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Aaron Milstone of the Johns Hopkins Children Center in Baltimore says the findings underscore the need for healthcare staff to do a better job in educating parents of children with MRSA.

Nearly one-fifth of those surveyed had never heard of MRSA. This common antibiotic-resistant bacterium causes skin and soft-tissue infections in healthy people, but can lead to invasive, sometimes fatal, infections in seriously sick patients and in those with weak immune systems, Milstone says.

The findings are published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

What is MRSA?

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant (Staphylococcus aureus). It is one of many strains of a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus — or Staph, for short. Staph bacteria are common on skin and in noses. Staph infection was first reported in humans more than 40 years ago.

In the past, staph rarely caused big problems, except for minor skin infections. And these infections could be treated effectively with antibiotics. But in recent years, there has been a big increase in antibiotic-resistant strains such as MRSA, even in children. For example, head and neck MRSA infections in children more than doubled during a five-year period.

Why is MRSA more of a concern today than in the past? Being resistant to antibiotics is one big reason. And today, MRSA is infecting healthy people, including children — not just those with weakened immune system, as in the past. This type of MRSA is called community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA). That’s because it affects people in the community, outside of hospitals and nursing homes. And, with more cases of community-associated MRSA, more children with MRSA have been admitted to hospitals.

CA-MRSA usually causes skin infections. Although rare, MRSA can also cause more serious infections such as pneumonia. Who’s most at risk of getting CA-MRSA? Children (or adults) who come into close contact with other people in places like: Day care centers, playgrounds, locker rooms, classrooms and other school settings, gymnasiums, and workout facilities

In these kinds of settings, MRSA in toddlers, MRSA in children, and MRSA in teens is more likely because kids have skin-to-skin contact and may share equipment that has not been cleaned. Children are also more likely to have frequent scrapes or bug bites- — potential entryways for infection.

Here’s what you can do:

- Teach your child to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. This includes after playing with pets or other children.

- Have your child use alcohol-based hand sanitizers or wipes when washing isn’t possible.

- Teach your child not to share towels, uniforms, or other items that come into contact with bare skin.

- Keep cuts or broken skin clean and covered with dry bandages until healed.

- Encourage your child to clean shared sports equipment with antiseptic solution before each use. Or, he or she can use a towel as a barrier between skin and equipment.

- If your child has dry skin, eczema, or a skin condition, use creams and moisturizers as directed by the doctor.

- Protect against sunburn and bug bites.

Of course, if a friend or someone in your family becomes infected with MRSA, these prevention steps are even more important.

Remember: although MRSA can show up anywhere, it is more likely when these “Five Cs” are present: crowding, contact between skin, compromised skin (cuts or scrapes), contaminated items, lacking in cleanliness.

MRSA Treatment

Treatment for MRSA may be slightly different than that used for other types of staph infections. So check with your Pediatrician.

It may include:

- Draining any skin abscesses.

- Prescribing antibiotics to prevent widespread infection.

Do not try to drain infections yourself. This can worsen the infection and spread it to other people. Be sure your child takes any antibiotics exactly as prescribed. This can help prevent other bacteria from becoming resistant, which is more likely to happen when germs aren’t completely wiped out by treatment.

To help prevent the spread of MRSA infection, do this:

- Change any bandages often. Do it before you can see any drainage through the bandage.

- Wear gloves while cleaning a wound or changing bandages.

- Carefully dispose of used bandages.

- Wash your hands thoroughly after you finish or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

- Clean surfaces with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants.

- Use separate hand towels, washcloths, and towels.

- Encourage showers instead of baths.

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One Response to “Learning More About MRSA”

  1. Kathy Clements says:

    This was the most helpful and concise info I read. And I read a lot of websites. Thanks Dr. Sue!

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