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What do hospitals do for staph infection?

Staph infections, or staphylococcus aureus infections, are common bacterial infections that can often be effectively treated in hospitals. Hospitals utilize a variety of diagnostic tests, medications, and procedures to manage and cure staph infections. Treatment depends on the type and severity of infection.

Diagnosing Staph Infections

When a patient comes to the hospital with symptoms of a staph infection, such as skin lesions, fever, or joint pain, doctors will first take a medical history and perform a physical exam. They will look for signs of infection and ask about the patient’s symptoms and possible exposure to staph bacteria.

Doctors can use several tests to diagnose a staph infection:

  • Blood tests can detect elevated white blood cell counts, which indicate infection.
  • Imaging tests like x-rays or CT scans can detect infections in bones or other deep tissues.
  • A skin or wound culture involves swabbing a skin lesion and sending the sample to a lab to test for staph bacteria.
  • A nasal swab can detect staph bacteria colonizing the nostrils.

These lab tests allow doctors to confirm the staph infection diagnosis and identify the particular strain, which guides appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Treating Mild Staph Skin Infections

Mild staph infections limited to the skin can often be treated with oral antibiotics on an outpatient basis. Common antibiotics used for mild staph skin infections include:

  • Dicloxacillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Clindamycin
  • Minocycline
  • Doxycycline

These antibiotics are usually taken for 7-10 days. Keeping the affected area clean and covered with a bandage also helps prevent spreading. Follow up visits monitor how the infection is responding to the antibiotics.

Treating Severe Staph Infections

More serious staph infections affecting deeper tissues or that have spread through the bloodstream are treated more aggressively. Hospitalization is often required.

Treatment steps include:

  • IV antibiotics – Severe infections are treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics that circulate through the bloodstream, like vancomycin, daptomycin, linezolid or ceftaroline.
  • Drainage – Infections forming abscesses or pockets of pus may need surgical drainage procedures.
  • Wound care – Keeping wounds clean, changing dressings regularly and removing dead or infected tissue speeds healing.
  • Supportive care – Steps like IV fluids and medication to reduce fever and pain may be needed.

Patients with widespread staph infections often stay in the hospital for several days or longer to receive IV antibiotics. Their condition is monitored closely for any worsening infection.

Treating Recurrent Staph Infections

Some people suffer from repeated staph infections. To reduce recurrences, doctors may recommend:

  • Prophylactic antibiotics – Taking oral antibiotics regularly or using antibacterial soaps/creams can prevent infections from recurring.
  • Screening household contacts – Family members may need screened and treated to avoid re-exposure.
  • Disinfecting personal items – Cleaning things like towels, sheets and razors prevents reinfection.
  • Decolonization – Using a nasal ointment inside the nose for 5-10 days may eliminate staph bacteria.

Preventing the Spread of Staph

Hospitals take significant precautions to prevent the spread of infectious staph bacteria between patients, hospital staff, and visitors. Steps include:

  • Isolation precautions – Patients with drug-resistant staph may be isolated in a private room and require gowns and gloves for contact.
  • Visitor limitations – Limiting visitors can reduce exposure.
  • Hand hygiene – Hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers is critical.
  • Surface cleaning – Rooms and medical equipment are thoroughly disinfected between patients.
  • Culturing patients – Identifying carriers through nasal/skin culturing helps isolate contagious patients.
  • Staff screening – Healthcare workers may be screened for staph carriage and receive preventative treatment if positive.

These hospital infection control measures are extremely important for limiting the spread of difficult-to-treat drug resistant staph strains.

Outcomes for Staph Infections

With prompt appropriate treatment, most staph skin infections clear up within a week or two. More serious infections may take several weeks or months to fully resolve. Outcomes depend on factors like:

  • The location and extent of infection
  • The particular staph strain
  • If the strain is antibiotic resistant
  • If the infection spreads to the bloodstream
  • The patient’s overall health status

Chronic or recurrent staph infections are more likely in those with conditions that impair the immune system. Even with treatment, severe staph infections can sometimes lead to serious complications or become fatal.

Complications of Staph Infections

Potential complications of staph infections include:

  • Bloodstream infection (sepsis)
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart valve infection (endocarditis)
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Septic arthritis
  • Abscesses in organs
  • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  • Cellulitis or deep skin infection
  • Scarring of the skin

These potential complications demonstrate the importance of promptly seeking medical care for suspected staph infections before they can worsen.

Preventing Staph Infections

Some tips for preventing staph skin infections in community settings include:

  • Practice good hygiene – Regularly wash hands and bathe with soap and water.
  • Disinfect surfaces – Clean items like athletic equipment, towels and shared items.
  • Cover wounds – Keep cuts and abrasions clean and covered until healed.
  • Avoid sharing personal items – Do not share razors, linens, clothing or athletic gear.
  • Keep hands away from face – Avoid touching nose and mouth.
  • Shower after activities – Shower after contact sports or gyms.

People with recurrent infections may need additional prevention strategies like daily antibacterial soap use. Keeping fingernails trimmed short can reduce bacterial harboring.


Staph infections are common but treatable with appropriate antibiotic therapy and proper wound care. Mild skin infections can often be managed in outpatient settings, while severe infections require hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics and intensive monitoring. Preventing spread is key, both in hospitals and community settings. Prompt treatment is important to avoid complications and achieve optimal outcomes.