Staph infections are caused by bacteria called staphylococcus aureus. These bacteria usually live harmlessly on the surface of the skin, often in the nose, armpits, and on the buttocks. However, they can cause an infection if they get into the skin through a break, such as a cut or a bite.
Staph infections can be passed from person to person, often through close skin contact or by sharing personal hygiene items, such as towels or toothbrushes. Less commonly, a staph infection can be spread through droplets in coughs and sneezes.
See your doctor or go to a hospital if you think you have a staph infection and:
Staph bacteria most commonly cause skin infections that present as:
Skin infections can develop into more serious internal infections that cause a wide variety of symptoms, including:
If you have a staph infection, or think you do, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some skin staph infections can go away on their own, but most staph infections need to be treated with antibiotics or by draining the infection.
Skin staph infections can be contagious. They can be passed from person to person through close skin contact or sharing personal hygiene items, such as towels, bed linen, or toothbrushes.
Less commonly, a staph infection can be spread through droplets in coughs and sneezes.
Skin staph infections, like cellulitis, boils and impetigo, can recur. This is more likely if you have the staphylococcus bacteria on your skin or in your nose. If this is the case, you may need treatment with an antibiotic soap or nasal cream to kill the bacteria.
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are caused by a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat staph infections.
MRSA skin and soft tissue infections can be treated with oral antibiotics that work against MRSA. These antibiotics include co-trimoxazole (trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole), clindamycin or a tetracycline.
If the infection is internal or doesn’t respond to oral antibiotics, you may need to be treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
As staph infections can affect the skin and different organs in the body, the type of doctor who will treat you may depend on the part of your body that is affected. Your family doctor may treat less serious skin staph infections, such as impetigo. A dermatologist may treat more serious skin infections.
You may be treated by a cardiologist if you develop endocarditis from a staph infection. In some cases, you may be referred to a doctor who specialises in treating infectious diseases.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.