The word "Staph" is the short version of "Staphylococcus," which is a type of bacteria. Staph infections are usually on the skin and nose, but can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the mouth or genitals, though this is uncommon. Facial staph infections not only make for an unsightly appearance on the face, but create risks of spreading the infection and of the infection worsening into a disease.
Staphylococci bacteria can safely live on the skin's surface, and a MedicineNet.com article by Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler reports that the bacteria lives in the nose and on the skin of 20 percent to 30 percent of healthy adults. Unless provoked by injury, wound, or some other damage to the skin, the bacteria does not threaten infection or disease. But if the skin is cut open in any place for any reason, the bacteria can get into the wound and cause a staph infection. There are more than 30 types of staphylococci bacteria (each able to cause different illnesses), but the type that causes staph infections is Staphylococcus aureus, or S. aureus. This type of staph bacteria can cause serious illnesses and disease. The skin infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus is called cellulitus.
It is important to know that staph infections are highly contagious, so they can spread easily from person to person, or even from animals to people. Facial staph infections are usually considered a minor skin infection, though it can worsen and become serious. The infections are caused by contaminated objects, people, and animals, and is usually spread simply by contact. Because the infection spreads by physical contact, facial infections account for most, since people (especially children) have a habit of touching their face.
People Prone to Staph Infections
Anyone can get a staph infection, from children to adults, but there are certain people more prone to the infection. Generally, people with weak immune systems are vulnerable to staph injections. Burns on the skin makes a person more prone to infection, and skin conditions like eczema also make people more prone. Diabetes is another condition that can weaken protection from staph infections. Newborn babies and breastfeeding mothers are also at higher risk.
Identification and Symptoms
Facial staph infections can appear in various forms, but the first signs that there might be a staph infection is if the skin shows something that looks like an open wound or sore that is red, swollen, painful and is draining pus. Cellulitus makes the affected area bright red and painful. Typical types of staph infections on the face include a boil, also called a furnacle, which is an abscess in the skin; impetigo, which causes crusted lesions and blisters on the skin's surface; and folliculitis, which appears as red, pus-filled blisters around the hair follicle.
Serious Conditions Caused by Staph Infections
Facial staph infections, like all staph infections, can lead to more serious conditions, such as the infection of the blood, the lymph gland, the valves of the heart, the bones, the glands of the eyelids and the joints. Untreated abscesses can easily lead to a buildup of pus that develops inside the body. Since the bacteria is poisonous, staph infections may worsen into food poisoning or toxic shock syndrome.
Doctors can diagnose the infection by taking a culture or blood sample. Once diagnosed, the staph infection will be treated with an antibiotic, and facial infections will be supplemented with special topical creams. The area must stay clean and as dry as possible, since the drainage that occurs with many facial staph infections is highly contagious, it is possible to spread the bacteria from the drainage on pillow covers, or by simply changing clothes.
Because staph infections are so contagious, it is important for people who live in close quarters to consistently wash towels, bed sheets, and other linens, and not share these items. Humid, warm environments can create a breeding ground for staph infections, and excessive sweating can actually increase the risk of infection. Any open cuts or wounds should be immediately cleaned and treated with an antiseptic ointment, and the wounded area must be kept dry and covered, especially if it is draining. In places like locker rooms and public pools, make sure the feet are properly covered when walking around, since staph infections spread easily by the feet as well.