Authored by JoannaRasmuson

Staph Infection 101

July 19, 2019 | Family Medicine

A staphylococcal (staph) infection can develop once specific strains of bacteria enter the body through a cut or open wound. 

Staphylococcus aureus is the strain most commonly associated with staph infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although typically found on the skin, this bacterial infection can affect virtually any part of the body once it enters the bloodstream. 

Evaluation and appropriate treatment from a healthcare practitioner or family practice doctor are essential to contain and minimize the damage a staph infection can cause.


How Do You Contract a Staph Infection?

The CDC reports that many people naturally carry staphylococcus bacteria inside their noses or on their skin. These carriers can get an infection if they suffer a cut or wound that provides the bacteria access to the body. Other people can get an infection if an open wound comes into contact with the carrier’s skin.

Staph is the most common cause of infections in the healthcare setting. Hospital stays pose one of the highest risks of contracting a staph infection, as does having IV lines or medical devices in the body. Injection drug use is another significant risk factor for bacterial infections.


What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Staphylococcal Infection?

The symptoms of staph infections can vary based on the type of infection you have and its location in the body. 


On the skin, staph infections may resemble a boil or pimple that is swollen, red and painful. Drainage may be present. You may also develop swelling that feels hot to the touch or a crusty area on your skin.

Cardiovascular System

You may experience symptoms similar to the flu, with fatigue, edema (swelling), chills or fever. You may notice shortness of breath or a rapid heartbeat.

Digestive Tract

Typically referred to as food poisoning, a staph infection in the digestive system can cause nausea, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.


A staph infection in the bones can cause redness, swelling, pain or warmth. Fever and chills are also common symptoms of a staph infection in the bones.

Staph infections can manifest in many forms. Seeking prompt attention from a healthcare provider is the best way to determine whether you have contracted a staph infection.


Diagnosis & Treatment of Staph Infections

To diagnose a bacterial infection such as staph, doctors perform a physical exam and take a detailed healthcare history. Depending on the nature of the infection, your doctor may take a culture (sample) through a skin scraping, nose or throat swab, tissue sample or stool sample. Some imaging tests can also aid in the diagnosis of staph.

Whenever possible, doctors treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. Healthcare providers may prescribe topical antibiotics, tablets or capsules or, in some cases, antibiotics delivered intravenously (IV). If the infection penetrates the bone, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

The notable exception to these treatment protocols is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Although many MRSA patients contract this infection while in the hospital, you can contract it from playing contact sports or engaging in any form of skin-to-skin contact with others. 

Doctors do have some types of antibiotics that can successfully treat MRSA. However, patients and community members must act to avoid these potentially deadly bacteria.

How to Prevent Staph Infections

MedlinePlus recommends the following steps to minimize your risk of developing staph and other bacterial infections.

  • Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene.
  • Cover cuts, sores and wounds.
  • Don’t share personal items (towels, razors, clothing).
  • Don’t share athletic equipment.
  • Don’t prepare food or engage in contact sports with an open or draining wound.

Some people face an increased risk of bacterial infection. MedlinePlus recommends taking extra care if you:

  • Have a compromised immune system
  • Suffer from a chronic disease such as diabetes
  • Undergo kidney dialysis 
  • Take anti-rejection drugs or recently had chemotherapy
  • Participate in contact sports
  • Use a catheter, feeding tube or breathing tube
  • Inject drugs, particularly street drugs

If you think you may have a staph infection, talk to your family doctor or another healthcare provider in your area.

Revere Health Orem Family Medicine clinic is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages. Our providers and staff specialize in pediatric and adult care, pregnancy care, women’s health, mole and lump removal, and asthma management. Our commitment is to provide thorough and timely healthcare for the entire family. We revere our patients’ health above all else and will work with them to develop a health care plan that best suits their needs.



“Staphylococcal Infections.” MedlinePlus.


“Staph Infections Can Kill.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.