by Jennifer Shakeel
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a newly resistant strain of the staph infection. Specifically, this strain is resistant to methicillin, the conventional antibiotic used to treat the most common Staphylococcus disease: the staph infection. Therefore, MRSA is now one of the newest “superbugs” that are resistant against traditional medications. For that reason, they should be taken with utmost caution.
As a parent, you are probably concerned that your child may come into contact with MRSA. The first thing to know about MRSA is that it is usually contracted in medical centers, especially hospitals, dialysis centers, and nursing homes. That is because people whose immune systems have been compromised—such as through chemotherapy and surgeries—are particularly vulnerable to MRSA. Fortunately, it is rare for children to become infected with MRSA because their immune systems are more robust. However, if a child has a weak immune system due to another illness or condition, he may be more prone to MRSA.
However, a MRSA infection is often easy to detect because it usually takes the form of skin boils. Specifically, the victim may develop skin bumps that rapidly turn into abscesses. These abscesses are uncomfortable and even painful, because they contain the bacteria of MRSA. Therefore, it is crucial to see a doctor immediately if your child develops these abscesses, so the doctor can examine them for MRSA. In addition, if your child is feverish, it is a good idea to see consult with your doctor.
If skin boils contain MRSA, the doctor drains these boils of the bacteria. When treating MRSA, doctors try to drain as much bacteria from the skin as possible; otherwise the bacteria will infiltrate the internal organs and infect them.
You may be wondering why the MRSA strain of staph came to be resistant to bacteria. The fact is that many people have been overusing antibiotics and antibacterial soaps that “kill” bacteria. The fault lies greatly with doctors who overprescribe these antibiotics, and various commercial ads that have drummed it into people that antibacterial soap wards against serious viruses. In fact, these products have spawned MRSA and other “superbugs” because bacteria—as intelligent organisms—have mutated to overcome the antibiotics. That is, antibiotics and bacteria are constantly at war with each other, and a “superbug” is a strain that resist its corresponding antibiotic.
To protect your child from MRSA, desist from using antibiotics if your child has non-serious illnesses. For instance, the common cold is not an illness that requires antibiotics, because it usually clears up on its own. Furthermore, when you use antibiotics, they are “teaching” the immune system to depend on them instead of fighting bacteria with its white blood cells. This overuse of antibiotics, therefore, creates a destructive feedback loop because the immune system will have no defense against strains like MRSA. Therefore, you should shy away from antibiotics in order to give your child his best protection against MRSA: his own immune system.
Even though MRSA is rare in children, if it strikes a child it can be fatal. In children, MRSA typically enters the body through a cut or lesion, and may soon spread to vital organs. However, spotting the telltale skin boils in time will usually prevent this situation altogether.
Other risk factors for MRSA include engaging in contact sports that cause cuts and may spread infections among players. In the same vein, sharing towels, razors, and other personal paraphernalia may spread MRSA. People who are on internal medical devices, such as catheters, are also at heightened risk. In addition, MRSA is more common at long-term care facilities where people are in constant contact with each other—and are of senior age, which means they have weaker immune systems.
While MRSA is resistant against many drugs, there are still a select few drugs that may treat it. Vancomycin is one antibiotic that may relieve symptoms, though unfortunately it is reducing in its effectiveness. The key to conquering MRSA, therefore, rests with prevention. Disinfecting is crucial—disinfectants are not the same as antibacterial soaps, but chemicals that prevent bacteria from even generating. Disinfectants are also applied to surfaces, especially germ-ridden surfaces such as at gyms. Hospitals, as the greatest source of MRSA contraction, are taking more precautions to disinfect medical equipment and surfaces. Furthermore, they are placing MRSA patients in quarantine so other patients are not infected. Lastly, the importance of seeing a doctor for suspicious or pus-filled skin boils can’t be understated.
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!
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