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Here’s another reason why I’m not a big fan of antibiotics (unless they are absolutely necessary, of course) – Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA). Taking too many antibiotics can make everyday bacteria that lives in our bodies very resistant to treatment. Everyone should learn about MRSA, and if you don’t know what it is, then turn up the volume!
What is MRSA?
Staph Aureus, often referred to as Staph, is a specific type of bacteria that lives on the surface of our skin or in our nostrils in about one third of us. Yes, we all have bacteria thriving off of us all of the time. If Staph breaks through our skin via an opening, such as a cut or a bug bite, it can overgrow and cause an infection. This can look like a pimple or a boil and is treatable with an antibiotic. But if Staph spreads through the blood or causes a large wound, then it can be more serious.
Staph bacteria can become resistant to other antibiotics over time if we overuse them. MRSA is a special type of Staph that is resistant to many antibiotics, including Methicillin, and is therefore considered more serious since doctors are limited in how we can treat it. Less than 2% of the general population is colonized by MRSA. The trouble is, it’s growing within our communities. It used to occur only in hospitalized patients. But now because so many people are colonized with it, it is spreading amongst all of us. If someone you know has it, they can pass it on to you via skin contact.
Those infected with MRSA tend to get more frequent skin infections, such as pimples, boils, and abscesses.
How Do You Know if You Have MRSA?
Anyone can get MRSA. It tends to spread more rapidly in those living with someone colonized with it, or in public spaces such as nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, college dorms, and fitness centers. You might recall Get-Fit Guy’s bout with MRSA that he contracted at the gym. You can get it by touching someone who has it, and then touching your skin or nose. MRSA can live on objects and surfaces, such as athletic equipment and doorknobs, for months.
The chances of contracting MRSA are greater if you use frequent antibiotics, or stop them before finishing the prescribed course or miss doses.
Those who are carriers of MRSA may not show any symptoms, or they may tend to get more recurrent skin infections. These tend to be red, swollen, sometimes painful lumps or pimples under the skin that may drain pus. If left untreated, they can get bigger and may need to be lanced with a scalpel, drained, and then packed with special gauze. Often, this gauze needs to be changed every 1 to 2 days until the opening slowly heals from the inside out.
More serious infections can cause pneumonia, sepsis (which is an infection of the bloodstream), or surgical wound infections.
If your doctor suspects MRSA, your wound or discharge can be swabbed and sent to the lab for testing.
How to Avoid Contracting MRSA?
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer
- Keep skin openings, such as cuts, covered with a bandage until they are healed
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or skin openings
- Do not share razors or towels with others
- Disinfect gym equipment prior to using it
What to Do Once You Have MRSA?
Besides frequent hand-washing and protecting your loved ones from contracting it via skin-to-skin contact, there are some things you can do to keep this bacteria at bay:
- Tell all your healthcare providers about your MRSA. They may wear gloves or wash their hands and take special precautions to prevent its spread to others.
- See your doctor as soon as you notice any skin infection. If you take antibiotics as soon as symptoms develop, you can prevent it from getting bigger.
- Use your own separate towels at home.
- When washing your hands, rub soap and water for at least 15 seconds, and rinse with warm water. Turn the faucet on and off using a paper towel.
- Carry your own alcohol-based hand-gel and make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol.
- Disinfect any gym equipment before and after you use it.
- Shower daily using “hexachlorophene” soap everywhere, including the nostrils. You do not need to wash any mucus membranes, such as your mouth or inside the genital area.
- Then apply bacitracin ointment on a Q-tip about 1 cm inside the nostrils and anus once a day for 3 months.
- After 3 months, use the hexachlorophene soap 6 days a week for one month, then 5 days a week for one month, then 4 days a week for one month, etc. until you are down to once a week – as long as the skin infections don’t recur. The bacitracin should be used for life to keep the bacteria in check, however.
- Centers for Disease Control – Healthcare Associated Infections
- Department of Health – MRSA
What is your experience with MRSA? Share it with us in the comments below.
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.