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Staphylococcal Infections

Infections caused by staphylococcal organisms can lead to a variety of diseases, including pneumonia, abscesses, bone infection (osteomyelitis), joint infection (arthritis), and a number of skin infections (eg, impetigo, pimples, boils). Staphylococcus aureus also causes toxin-related illnesses, including toxic shock syndrome, scalded skin syndrome, and staphylococcal-related food poisoning. In fact, staphylococcal bacteria are the leading cause of food poisoning.

Some of the childhood infections associated with Staphylococcus that you should be familiar with include the following:

  • Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that first affects the outer layers of the skin and then may spread more deeply into body tissues under the skin. Although other types of bacteria can cause cellulitis, Saureus is responsible for many childhood cases. Symptoms include redness, swelling, warmth, and tenderness of the skin. Your pediatrician may diagnose the infection by examining the area. The doctor may take a culture of the skin or wound, and blood tests may be ordered to identify the organism involved. Antibiotics taken by mouth are usually prescribed for mild cellulitis. Some severe cases require hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics.With proper treatment, most cases clear up in 7 to 10 days.
  • Impetigo is a common and contagious skin infection in young children, developing most often during hot, humid summers and usually appearing on the face around the nose, mouth, and ears. It can be caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. (More often, it is caused by a staphylococcal infection.) Staphylococcal organisms sometimes can cause blisters. Your pediatrician may diagnose the infection by taking a sample of the material from within the blister and having it tested in the laboratory. Antibiotics should be prescribed for this condition and are usually taken by mouth. In mild cases, an antibiotic cream or ointment can be applied to the skin. Until the rash heals or for at least the first 2 days of antibiotic treatment, your child should avoid close contact with other children.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is a disease that affects infants and young children. It tends to begin with a single staphylococcal skin infection, often in a baby’s diaper area, in which bacteria produce a toxin that reddens and damages the skin. Large sections of the top layer of skin (epidermis) can be peeled or slipped away just by pressing down lightly or rubbing the affected area, exposing a raw and red layer that is vulnerable to other infectious organisms. These children can also run a fever. Your pediatrician may put your child on intravenous antibiotics. Warm compresses can be placed on the skin to ease any discomfort. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome usually heals without scarring.
Last Updated
Immunizations & Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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