Skip to Content

Why am I getting multiple staph?

Staph infections, short for Staphylococcus aureus infections, are caused by bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the nose of healthy individuals. While usually harmless, staph bacteria can sometimes enter the body through openings or breaks in the skin and cause infection. It is possible for some people to get recurrent staph infections, meaning they get infected multiple times. There are several reasons why someone may be more prone to getting repeat staph infections.

What is Staph?

Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, are bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people. Approximately 30% of people have staph bacteria living on their body without causing any issues. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the general population.

While usually harmless, staph bacteria can sometimes lead to infections if they enter the body through openings or breaks in the skin. Common types of staph infections include:

– Boils – infected hair follicles
– Impetigo – infected skin rash
– Cellulitis – infection of deeper skin tissues
– Abscesses – pocket of pus caused by infection

Staph most often causes mild skin infections that are easily treated. However, staph can also lead to more serious infections of the bloodstream, heart, lungs, bones, and joints.

What Factors Lead to Recurrent Staph Infections?

For most healthy people, a staph infection is an isolated event. However, some individuals are prone to getting staph infections over and over again. Recurrent staph infections are defined as having two or more separate episodes of staph infection within a 6-month period.

Several factors can increase someone’s risk of having repeat staph infections, including:

Compromised Immune System

People with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to all types of infections, including staph. underlying conditions like HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders can impair immune function. Long-term use of medications like corticosteroids or drugs that suppress the immune system after organ transplant can also diminish the body’s defenses against bacteria. Staph bacteria have an easier time gaining a foothold and causing infection when immune function is low.

Prior Staph Colonization

Individuals who have had staph bacteria colonize their skin or nasal passages in the past are at higher risk for future staph infections. Staph colonization simply means that the bacteria are present on the body but not currently causing any symptoms or infection. Approximately 30% of people carry staph bacteria on their skin or in their nose without it leading to illness. However, colonized individuals are primed for recurrent staph infections because the bacteria are ready and waiting for an opportunity to breach the skin’s defenses. The bacteria only need a small break in the skin to be able to penetrate and infect.

History of Antibiotic Use

The frequent use of antibiotics, especially broad-spectrum antibiotics, can make people more prone to staph infections in the future. Antibiotics kill off competing harmless bacteria that normally also live on the skin and crowd out space that staph bacteria could otherwise occupy. This allows the staph bacteria to multiply and establish a larger presence on the skin. Antibiotic use can also lead staph bacteria to become resistant to certain commonly used antibiotics, making infections harder to treat.

Cosmetic Skin Procedures

Waxing, tattoos, skin piercings, and other cosmetic procedures that damage the skin can increase susceptibility to staph infections. Even a basic manicure or pedicure if proper sanitization is not followed can introduce staph bacteria into the body. The minor skin injuries these procedures cause create an entry point for bacteria to infect. Staph bacteria living on the skin’s surface can access the deeper layers of skin and underlying tissue.

Contact Sports Participation

Individuals participating in high contact sports like wrestling are vulnerable to getting repeat staph infections. The skin damage that occurs during sports creates an opportunity for bacteria to invade the body. Sports equipment, locker rooms, and shared facilities can also harbor staph bacteria and facilitate transmission between players. Staph infections spread easily in settings where people have close skin-to-skin contact.

Healthcare Work

Working in healthcare puts people at increased risk of contracting and spreading staph bacteria. Healthcare settings invariably contain antibiotic-resistant staph that can be picked up and passed around by caregivers and patients. Even diligent hand washing does not always prevent healthcare workers from acquiring drug-resistant staph bacteria that can then lead to difficult-to-treat infections.

Household Members with Staph

Living with someone who has a staph infection, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), makes a person more likely to become a carrier themselves. Staph bacteria can spread easily to family members through close contact and shared spaces. Household items like towels, linens, and surfaces can harbor the bacteria and facilitate transmission if not properly disinfected. Household members may end up passing the same staph bacteria back and forth.

Lack of Good Hygiene

Poor hygiene habits make acquiring repeat staph infections more likely. Not regularly washing your hands and body, practicing good wound care, and disinfecting living spaces can allow staph bacteria to more easily spread and infect. Good hygiene helps curb transmission by removing bacteria from the skin’s surface.


Obese individuals are at heightened risk for all types of infections, including recurrent staph. The chronic minor skin infections and irritation that often occurs in skin folds of obese people create an entry point for staph bacteria. Obesity can also inhibit proper immune function and make it harder for the body to fight off infections.


Research shows that smoking cigarettes is associated with an increased rate of staph colonization and infection. The exact reasons are still being studied but may be related to a decreased immune response and skin damage caused by smoking. Secondhand cigarette smoke can also transmit staph bacteria between people.

Young Age

Children and infants are more prone to getting staph infections, especially in daycare or school settings. Their still-developing immune systems have a harder time fending off bacteria. Kids are also more likely to come into contact with staph through cuts and scrapes from play or participating in sports.

Diagnosing Recurrent Staph Infections

Doctors can usually readily diagnose recurrent staph infections through:

– Physical exam of the infected site
– Taking a medical history of prior staph infections
– Laboratory testing of wound drainage or pus to identify Staphylococcus aureus bacteria
– Bacterial culture to determine antibiotic sensitivity

Diagnosing repeat staph infections allows doctors to provide the appropriate antibiotic treatment and help determine any risk factors that may be making a patient prone to recurrence. Testing also informs prevention strategies for avoiding future infections.

Preventing Recurrent Staph Infections

If you are experiencing troubling recurrent staph infections, there are a number of ways you can help prevent repeat episodes:

Practice Good Hygiene and Home Sanitation

Proper hygiene and household cleanliness helps prevent staph bacteria from colonizing and spreading.

– Keep your hands clean by regularly washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
– Shower right after athletic games or practices involving skin-to-skin contact
– Avoid sharing personal care items like towels and razors
– Use a barrier like clothing or a towel between your skin and shared equipment/surfaces
– Wash clothes, sheets, and towels frequently in hot water
– Disinfect surfaces, toys, and other shared items at home and work

Avoid Irritating Skin Conditions

Reduce skin irritation and damage that can create an entry point for staph bacteria:

– Moisturize dry skin and treat conditions like eczema
– Stop smoking to avoid skin-damaging effects
– Shave carefully to prevent nicks and cuts to the skin
– Avoid excessive scrubbing or use of irritating skin care products
– Wear gloves for wet work and use protective gear for sports

Get Proper Wound Care

Care for cuts, scrapes, and other wounds properly to prevent infection:

– Clean wounds right away with soap and water
– Apply antibiotic ointment and keep covered with a sterile bandage
– Watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, pain, heat, pus
– See a doctor for severe or worsening wounds

Treat Any Nasal Colonization

Ask your doctor about using a prescription antibiotic ointment inside the nose to eliminate staph colonization if it persists despite other prevention methods. This can reduce the rate of recurrent infections.

Follow Up as Directed After Infections

Make sure to complete your full course of antibiotics as prescribed when treating active staph infections. Do not stop early even if symptoms resolve to ensure the bacteria are fully eliminated. Follow any other medical instructions for follow-up care.

Consider Prophylactic Antibiotics

For some people with frequent severe staph infections, doctors may recommend taking preventive daily antibiotics long-term to prevent recurrence. This helps fight the bacteria before they can establish an infection.

Get Screened for Risk Factors

See your doctor to get screened for any underlying health conditions or immune deficiencies that could be making you more susceptible to repeat staph infections. Treating any primary medical problems can help.

Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics

Take antibiotics only when truly needed to treat infections to prevent antibiotic resistance. Avoid unnecessary use for problems like viral illnesses. Always complete your prescribed antibiotic course fully.

Disinfect Hot Tubs

Be diligent about hot tub maintenance and disinfection if you own one. Hot tubs can easily harbor staph bacteria and cause recurrent skin infections if not cleaned properly with chlorine or bromine.

Consider Probiotics

There is some research indicating probiotic supplements can help crowd out staph bacteria by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria on the skin. Talk to your doctor about probiotic options.

Treatment for Recurrent Staph Infections

Recurrent staph infections require prompt medical treatment to help prevent complications, repeated episodes, and spread to others. See your doctor right away if you notice signs of a staph infection.


Your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat active staph infections. Antibiotic selection is based on lab testing of wound cultures to identify the bacteria and determine its antibiotic sensitivity profile.

First-line antibiotics for staph infections often include:

– Dicloxacillin
– Cephalexin
– Clindamycin
– Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX)
– Doxycycline
– Minocycline

For serious, antibiotic-resistant, or recurrent infections, newer antibiotics may be prescribed like:

– Linezolid
– Daptomycin
– Tigecycline
– Ceftaroline
– Vancomycin

It is critical to take the antibiotics exactly as directed and complete the entire course to help prevent recurrence.Notify your doctor if symptoms do not start to improve within a few days.

Drainage of Pus

If a staph infection forms an abscess or fluid-filled lump under the skin, your doctor may need to drain the pus. This can be done by:

– Opening and draining the abscess with a scalpel
– Prescribing antibiotics and applying warm compresses to help it drain on its own

This helps relieve symptoms and speeds healing. The pus will also be tested to identify the exact strain of staph causing infection.

Follow Up Care

Your doctor will want to see you again shortly after starting antibiotics to make sure the infection is improving. Follow any instructions on caring for the affected area to prevent spread of the infection. Call your doctor right away if symptoms worsen or fever develops.

To prevent transmitting staph bacteria to others after an infection, follow basic hygiene practices. Avoid direct skin contact, cover any wounds, and disinfect any personal items that have come in contact with the infected area. Wash hands frequently and shower once antibiotics have been taken for at least 24 hours.


Recurrent staph infections can be frustrating and concerning but are usually manageable with proper treatment and preventive steps. See your doctor for accurate diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic therapy when these common skin infections recur. Identifying and addressing any risk factors or health conditions that make you prone to repetition staph infections is key, whether that involves lifestyle changes, managing underlying medical problems, improved hygiene, preventive antibiotics, or probiotic use. With a strategic approach tailored to your specific circumstances, most people find they can successfully reduce episodes of recurrent staph infections.