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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

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Hilary Swank Kicks Staph Infection

Antibiotics Work Well, but See Doctor When Swelling, Redness Develops

What can be done about a staph infection?

Antibiotics are used to treat these infections. But there's been a gradual change in how well these antibiotics are working. While most staph infections used to be treatable with penicillin, in the 1980s that changed and stronger antibiotics are now used.

In about 50% of cases, however, we see resistance to even these stronger antibiotics. These cases are not just happening in hospitals -- as once was true -- but now are occurring in the general community. That's been a problem. Many doctors are accustomed to using certain antibiotics, but those then fail because of antibiotic resistance. There are several more potent antibiotics now, but doctors need to know when to use them.

There's another treatment we sometimes use with staph infections. If the infection goes so deep that it involves muscles or fibers that enclose muscles, it needs to be surgically cleaned.

Can staph infection be prevented?

You can take steps to help prevent it. Any time you have a cut or skin breakdown, wash it with soap and water, keep it clean and dry, use antiseptic ointment, and keep it covered. A couple of recent outbreaks among football players began when one team member had a boil, and the infection was spread to other team members.

The staph infection is contagious if the wound is weeping or draining, and if people share towels or other items that are contaminated. Wearing foot coverings in locker rooms and other commonly used areas can help prevent contamination.

If the sore becomes unusually painful or red, get prompt medical attention. The red lines that Swank had were evidence that the infection was spreading.

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