Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus – “MRSA”
Skin normally carries a lot of bacteria. Of course, most of the time, bacteria on the skin doesn’t cause any problem. Bacteria come in many different types, one of which is called staphylococcus, commonly called “staph”. MRSA is in this family, and has been found on about 1% of the general population. Because it is resistant to most antibiotics, when it infects the skin it can sometimes become difficult to treat.
Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that look like boils, insect bites, or dark red warm swollen patches of skin, and are often painful. Serious infections may cause pneumonia, surgical wound infections, or bloodstream infections. Staph bacteria can also cause worsening of skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. While most staph infections are treated more easily, MRSA in particular, due to its resistance, is more troublesome.
How do I get rid of Staph or MRSA, and keep it from spreading to others?
- Treat the infection: If you have an infection, follow our instructions completely. If you are given antibiotics, make sure you take all of them as prescribed. Since most antibiotics don’t disinfect your nasal lining, treat the insides of your nostrils, especially towards the front, with mupirocin (a prescription antibiotic ointment) three times daily for a full 10 days.
- Disinfect your skin: Take bleach baths (see below) or swim in a chlorinated pool, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently, clean and disinfect under your nails, apply mupirocin to the inside of your nostrils and any skin folds if instructed by your doctor. Use a liquid benzoyl peroxide cleanser when you shower. Keep your hands away from your nose, skin folds, or other infected areas of skin.
- Disinfect your environment: Clean frequently used areas of your house daily with household cleaner, including doorknobs and cabinet handles, light switches, faucets, and phones. Change your clothes daily and wash your clothes after they have been worn. Wash your bed linens every week. Disinfect your car steering wheel and other surfaces that are frequently touched.
- Protect your family and friends: Cover any open areas of skin with clothing or a dressing. Select clothing that covers infected or inflamed areas of skin. Don’t share towels, washcloths, hairbrushes, razors, or other personal care items. Hang your towels separately. Do not participate in contact sports, nor use public exercise equipment. Remind family members to wash/sanitize their hands frequently, and to use liquid cleanser containing triclosan or benzoyl peroxide when they bathe.
- Any pets? Household pets can be colonized with Staph or MRSA, especially around the nose and anus. If you have followed these instructions and still have recurrent infections, consider having your vet check your pet.
- Check your lifestyle: Reduce dietary sugar and simple carbohydrates. Quit smoking. Cut back on alcohol consumption. Eat more fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fish. Take Vitamin C. Be checked for anemia or Vitamin D deficiency. Take a walk every day.
Bleach baths – the best defense against Staph
Inflamed skin easily picks up bacterial infections, especially Staphylococcus aureus. Then infections make the inflammation worse. This inflammation-infection cycle causes skin conditions such as eczema to spiral out of control, making patients feel even more miserable with intolerable itching. To break the cycle, the skin needs to be disinfected. However, we must all try to cut down on the overuse of antibiotics – the very process that helped increase MRSA populations in the first place.
Swimming pools are chlorinated to reduce most germs in the water, and immersion in chlorinated water can help cut down on the Staph on your skin. This works especially well because immersion gets the chlorination to some hard-to-reach areas, like under folds in your skin. When you can’t swim in a pool, you can do-it-yourself in your bathtub:
- Start by using lukewarm water to fill a tub for a normal bath (about 40 gallons). Move any valuable clothing or linens away from the bathtub to avoid permanent whitish discoloration.
- Add ½ cup of common household liquid bleach (sodium hypochlorite 6%, such as Clorox) to the bath water, and swirl to mix. This will make a solution of diluted bleach just a little bit stronger than chlorinated swimming pool water. Remember, if you use a smaller amount of water, you must cut down on how much bleach is added. For example, if you fill the tub only half way to the overflow drain, use about 1/4 cup of bleach. For each 5-gallons of water, use only 1 tablespoon of bleach.
- Soak in the chlorinated water for about 15 minutes, making sure to allow the water to get in and around folds.
- Thoroughly rinse the skin with lukewarm, fresh water at the end of the bleach bath with a quick shower.
- As soon as you’re finished rinsing off, pat dry with toweling. Don’t rub the skin dry, as this will aggravate the itching.
- Don’t wait: before your skin dries out, apply any prescribed medication cream or ointment to the inflamed areas, then a moisturizing cream overall. It is important to seal the moisture in the skin, so don’t wait until the skin has dried out completely.
Bleach baths can be taken daily as part of the treatment for Staph or MRSA infections, or 2-3 times per week as part of treatment for eczema.
- Do not use undiluted bleach directly on the skin.
- Don’t allow even a drop of bleach to splash near your face or into eyes.
- Do not use bleach baths if there are many breaks or open areas in the skin, as this will cause intense stinging and burning.
- Do not use bleach baths if you know you have an extreme sensitivity to chlorine.