Here's another reason for practicing good, basic hygiene: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA (pronounced MER-sa). Ever heard of it? You may know it as a "staph infection." Either way, it's a skin infection that's often easily treatable, but can sometimes lead to more severe infections. MRSA is a type of staph infection that doesn't respond to regular antibiotics. So that means it's trickier to treat.
A staph infection (PDF) shows up as a bump on the skin such as pimples or boils. To spot one, ask yourself: Is the infected area swollen and red? Does it hurt? Is there pus? If so, then contact your health care provider immediately to get the wound examined.
Basically, you're at risk of getting infected by the bacteria if you've touched infected people, surfaces or objects. You're especially vulnerable after surgery in a hospital when you're dealing with an open wound in a crowded place. Other crowded places with frequent skin-to-skin contact and lack of cleanliness, such as schools, dormitories, day care centers and households, are also frequent sources for spread of the infection.
The good news is a few simple steps can help prevent and reduce the spread of MRSA. To protect yourself, some basic hygiene rules apply:
* Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
* Clean and bandage all open wounds — minor cuts included.
* Stay away from other people's open cuts.
* Never share toiletries such as razors, wash cloths and towels.
If you get a staph infection, your doctor may drain the infection and possibly put you on an antibiotic. Always take all prescribed antibiotic doses. If you stop taking antibiotics in the middle, the infection may come back stronger and be harder to treat the second time around. Never skip a dose, give the antibiotic to someone else or keep it for later.
Remember, most staph infections are minor and easily treated. But sometimes they can lead to much worse. Follow the basic steps we've listed to help keep you and those you love safe.