What is MRSA? It stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can cause skin infection. About 1 in 3 people have “staph” on their skin. It normally causes no harm, but if there is a scrape, cut, or bug bite it could cause an infection to develop. Infections can develop not only on the surface of the skin, but also into the soft tissue where a boil or abscess can form.

In recent years, MRSA has become a major public-health problem because this bacterium has become resistant to antibiotics called beta-lactams, which include methicillin and other commonly prescribed antibiotics (such as penicillin and amoxicillin). This resistance has made treating these infections more difficult. While MRSA was once limited to hospitals and nursing homes, it has spread into the community in schools, households, and child care centers, among other places. It can be transmitted from person to person through skin-to-skin contact, particularly through cuts and abrasions.

If your child has a wound that appears to be infected—specifically, if it is red, swollen, hot, and draining pus—call the doctor. MRSA can also look like a cluster of bumps that look like pimples or insect bites. Infections are treated with topical and oral antibiotics, and severe ones may need to be drained. The most serious MRSA infections may cause pneumonia and bloodstream infections. Even though MRSA infections are resistant to some antibiotics, there are others available for treatment.

To prevent your child from getting MRSA at school or other public places, the following strategies can be helpful:

  • • Follow good hygiene practices. Your child should wash his hands frequently with soap and warm water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • • Use a clean dry bandage to cover any cuts, scrapes, or breaks in your child’s skin. These bandages should be changed at least daily.
  • • Don’t let your child share towels, washcloths, or other personal items (including clothing and sporting equipment) with anyone else.
  • • Frequently clean surfaces that your child touches.