Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

My two youngest children are in daycare. I'm a single parent and have to work. Last year they came home with lice. This year there's a scare about staph infection that can eat the skin away. Is there anything I can do to help keep them safe?

You may be referring to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, pronounced mersa) infection. MRSA is a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat staph infections in humans. It's resistant to a large group of antibiotics including penicillin and cephalosporin drugs. That makes it a dangerous infection that can spread, even causing unexpected deaths in children and young adults. When it's acquired outside the hospital or institutional setting, it's referred to as community acquired MRSA or CA-MRSA. CA-MRSA was first reported in a group of children back in the 1980s. Then the 2003 death of a college football player brought the disease to everyone's attention. CA-MRSA starts as a simple skin infection. If it's found early enough, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics. But if it's undetected or ignored, the infection can become much more serious. Osteomyelitis (bone infection), necrotizing pneumonia (death of lung tissue), and sepsis (blood infection) can develop as a result of MRSA. There are some simple steps that can be taken in any setting where overcrowding or close contact can lead to the spread of MRSA. The first is handwashing. Teach your child the importance of proper hand washing. In many cases, the use of hand gels is acceptable (certainly better than nothing). Children should be taught not to share (or even ask others to share with them) items such as towels, water bottles, brushes/combs, toothbrushes, cups, or other personal items. When they get home from school, have them change their clothes and put on clean clothes. To be extra careful, a full shower or bath with soap, rinse, and toweling off right away is even more effective. This may not be necessary unless there is an active outbreak of MRSA. But it can't hurt, and it may help. Most of all, when you or your child is sick, don't ask for antibiotics if they aren't recommended. The overuse of antibiotics to treat viruses rather than bacteria has been linked to the mutation of bacteria that are now resistant to previously effective medications such as penicillin.

Annie Hayashi. MRSA: From the Hospital and Into the Community. In AAOSNow. October 2008. Vol. 2. No. 10. Pp. 1, 12.

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