It can happen almost instantly. First there’s a fever, accompanied by what appears to be pimples or an insect bite, then pain, and shortly after— you’re being whisked from an emergency room to intensive care— and the treatments can seem endless. Sometimes there’s surgery involved and the recovery can last months! That’s a sample of what can happen when an individual is attacked by MRSA.
MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Most MRSA cases have occurred in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings. Lately, however, MRSA is being found in the most unlikely locations such as the workplace or a high school gym.
What can we do to combat this deadly infection? Although these may seem like the obvious answers, there are some simple and easy preventive measures you can do to lessen your risk of contracting the disease. These preventive measures to help stop the spread of germs should also be taken to protect against getting the flu. While some of these practices appear obvious, these are usually ignored on a daily basis, and you’d be surprised how many people don’t do these simple preventives.
Wash your hands often for at least 15 seconds with soap and water. This is an obvious one. If you can’t wash your hands, carry a small bottle of sanitizer with you. When you have a cut, wash it immediately and put on a Band-Aid. Something as simple as a paper cut can turn into an infection— not necessarily MRSA, but it can become a pain.
Don’t share your personal items. This may seem like a Dr. Obvious answer, but sharing your personal items like towels, toiletries and clothing is a great way to spread illness. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
After a workout, game or practice, shower immediately with soap and water (yes, some people don’t). This is another Dr. Obvious answer. Also, be considerate of others in the gym and wipe down the equipment after you use it. It only takes a minute, but it helps.
Be careful with public places. Will you seem like a germaphobe with a bottle of sanitizer? Probably. Can it help you to be sanitary? Most definitely. In public places, this is the easiest way to spread colds, flu and yes, MRSA too. Congested areas, especially during cold and flu season, can be the best places to pick up a virus. If you have a workplace where you share a cubicle or a phone, be sure to use sanitary wipes or sprays. This can help lessen your chances of picking up a nasty bug.
Sneeze in the crook of your arm when you don’t have a tissue. You probably won’t get MRSA or a serious infection from someone sneezing, but you can get colds, the flu or other viruses. Although it sounds gross (and probably is), sneezing in the crook of your arm is the best way to stop the spread of airborne germs. Think about it. When you sneeze, if you don’t have a tissue and use your hands, you can easily spread germs around your home, office or gym. Sneezing in the crook of your arm stops airborne germs. Don’t worry about appearances. You’ll be stopping the flow of germs.
Don’t touch your face, or put fingers in your mouth. Yes, it sounds obvious but several times a day, people touch their face and put their fingers in their mouth. What about those delicious cookies your co-worker brought in? Sure, they look good, but are your hands washed? Eating food with your hands is the easiest way to spread germs. If you do have an office buffet that requires you to eat “finger food,” keep the bottle of sanitizer nearby.
When to See a Doctor
When should you see a health care professional? The best way to combat any illness is to catch it early. MRSA’s warning signs are small red bumps on your skin that resemble bug bites, or red pimples. Often, these pimples are filled with pus and feel warm when you touch them. Next is a fever. If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to see your doctor.
Keep in mind that if left untreated, MRSA can have serious complications for your heart, lungs, bones, joints and blood. So, the next time you have a fever with a rash, don’t think you’re wimping out by going to the doctor— it could be something serious. And it may seem a bit redundant to give such simple warning signs, but the truth is, MRSA can be hiding in plain sight— and being cautious can save your life.
Of course, the likelihood of you developing MRSA is small. You are more likely to get a cold or flu than MRSA. Also, keep in mind that MRSA is more likely to occur in a health care setting. Health care providers do take great precautions to prevent such incidents from occurring. However, if you see something out of the ordinary in a health care setting, don’t be afraid to question it with a health care professional. Sometimes, stating what you feel is the obvious may not be obvious to someone else.
Look for Part 2 of “Beating the Flu” on Friday: Nutrition, Lifestyle Minimize Flu Risk.