KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Staph infections are common among kids and young adults, especially those living in close quarters or playing sports. Usually the illness is mild, but some staph infections like MRSA send hundreds of thousands of people to hospitals every year.

Dr. Shannon Cohen from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital explains how MRSA spreads and what parents should be on the lookout for.

What is MRSA? 

MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a staph infection, but it differs from other staph infections because of its resistance to many antibiotics, including penicillin.

How does MRSA spread? 

Staph infections start with bacteria entering the body through a cut, scrape or rash. You can also get the infection by touching someone’s MRSA-infected skin; touching surfaces that have MRSA on them, like doorknobs, light switches and keyboards; sharing sports equipment; or sharing personal hygiene items like bar soap, towels, or razors.


See your child’s doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Red, swollen, painful bumps on skin. It can look like a “spider bite,” turf burn, abscess, boil, or infected wound and is sometimes filled with fluid.
  • Some kids develop fever

Complications of MRSA infection 

In rare cases infection can spread to the blood, lungs, bones, joints, or other parts of the body. MRSA can also cause pneumonia.

Prevention tips

  • Wash hands well and frequently.
  • Alcohol-based sanitizers work well when there’s no access to soap and water.
  • Keep cuts or broken skin clean and covered with a bandage.
  • Don’t share razors, towels, uniforms or other items that come into contact with bare skin.
  • Shared sports equipment should be cleaned with disinfectant.

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