Staph infection and skin hygiene

Learn about this common skin infection and how to prevent it with good hygiene

We all want healthy looking skin. It makes us feel good about ourselves and gives us confidence when meeting other people. But did you know, no matter how healthy your skin looks and feels, it still plays host to many different types of micro-organisms? One common type is Staphylococcus aureus?

Most of the time, this bacteria will cause you little or no harm. But if it invades deeper into your skin, it can lead to a bacterial infection, known as staph infection. Generally, a staph infection can be treated with antibiotic creams or tablets, but some staph infections, like those caused by MRSA, can be resistant to certain antibiotics making the infection much more difficult to treat.


Staphylococcus aureus can spread through the air on skin scales (dust), by skin to skin contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. Your skin forms a natural barrier against bacteria and other germs, but when the skin is broken or cut, staphylococcus aureus can enter your body and cause a Staph infection. These can be classified into two groups:

  • Skin and soft tissue infections. These are mild infections when the bacteria infects only the skin surrounding the point of entry
  • Invasive infections. If the bacteria enters your bloodstream and then on to bones, lungs or heart. These can lead to much more serious infection – sometimes life-threatening


Symptoms of some common skin and soft tissue staph infections include:

  • Boils – a red, painful lump on the skin which can develop a yellow pus build-up at the centre. Squeezing it can lead to further infection, so it’s best left to burst on its own and dry up.
  • Impetigo – mainly affects children and is highly contagious and manifests itself in sores that may rupture, leaving a yellow-brown crust, or as large painless fluid-filled blisters. Scratching them causes the bacteria to spread.
  • Cellulitis – a bacterial infection below the skin’s surface, causing it to become red, painful, swollen and blister. You can also feel shivery and nausea.
  • Staph Scolded Skin Syndrome (SSSS) – mostly affects babies and children under five with extensive blistering which looks as if the skin has been scolded by boiling water. Babies also suffer high temperatures and peeling skin.

If you have any of these symptoms you should consult with your doctor or healthcare professional as you will need a course of antibiotics to treat the infection.

Prevention Tips

Hand washing

Regularly wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, including after going to the toilet and before eating food

Keeping Skin Clean

Bath or shower every day to keep your skin clean and healthy.

Keeping cuts and wounds covered

If you have a cut or wound, clean it, treat with an antiseptic and then keep it covered with a dressing to protect it, becoming contaminated by dirt and germs. Change the dressing regularly, ensuring you wash your hands before and afterwards to prevent further risks of infection.

Myths and Truths

Q. People with skin allergies are more likely to get staph infections?

People who have allergic skin reactions like eczema are more prone to skin infections, particularly from Staph aureus, because their immune system is more focussed on the allergy than it is on fighting infection. People with eczema are also more likely to scratch or rub their skin to relieve the itching, which can damage the skin further, leaving it open to infection.