"Staph" is short for "staphylococcus," a group of bacteria that are commonly found on the skin of healthy people. They can cause illness in people either by causing an infection (usually after entering the body through a cut or break in the skin) or by making toxins (poisons).
Infections are usually local and not serious. They include folliculitis (minor infections involving hair follicles), boils (deeper infections involving hair follicles), sties (when the hair follicles on eyelashes are involved), impetigo (a skin infection more commonly seen in children that may cause blisters or scabs), and abscesses (deeper and more serious infections of the skin or collections of pus within body organs). Much less frequently, staph can enter the bloodstream and cause more serious infections, usually (but not always) in individuals whose immune systems are not working well. These cases are very uncommon, especially among otherwise healthy children.
If food is not properly handled if not kept cold or warm enough, for example staph may multiply in the food and produce a toxin that will not be destroyed by subsequently heating the food and may not be detected by any change in the smell or taste of the food. Within hours after eating such contaminated food, people may develop vomiting and diarrhea. As such, food poisoning caused by staph toxins is not spread from person to person groups of people get ill from sharing the same original source of contaminated food. Safe handling of food is the best form of prevention for this type of illness. Toxins from staph can also make someone very ill if they get into the bloodstream.
The best way to protect your child from getting a staph infection is to clean and cover cuts and to try to keep the skin healthy and free of breakdown. Individuals with a skin infection should keep the area covered. If for some reason your child does touch an area of infection on another child, wash your child s hands with soap and water. Health care providers are concerned nowadays that more staph is becoming immune to many antibiotics because of the overuse of antibiotics in the general public. This resistant strain of staph can be very difficult to treat when it does cause infections, even by using strong antibiotics given intravenously in the hospital. This is why we are working hard to limit the unnecessary use of antibiotics.