What parents need to know about MRSA

What parents need to know about MRSA

When your child is in elementary school, you dread getting the letter sent home by the school informing parents that there is an outbreak of lice. Today, though, lice didn't seem so bad when I got a letter from my daughter's high school informing parents that there is an outbreak of MRSA at the school.

MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains that it "is a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. Staph and MRSA can cause a variety of problems ranging from are skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia to bloodstream infections."

"While MRSA was once limited to hospitals and nursing homes, it has spread into the community in schools, households, and child care centers, among other places. It can be transmitted from person to person through skin-to-skin contact, particularly through cuts and abrasions," says HealthyChildren.org, by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Athletes and school students are among the groups at higher risk for MRSA, so it is unsurprising that the two infected students at my daughter's school are football players.

HealthyChildren.org and the CDC set forth the following strategies for preventing MRSA.

  • Good hygiene is critical. Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. (I'll keep saying it if it helps.) Remind kids (including teens) that good hand washing means using soap, warm water, and spending more than 10 seconds doing so.  Washing your body is important, too, especially after exercise. This is a big one for kids who may need multiple showers a day after practice, gym class, and general tween and teen activity.
  • Cover cuts, scrapes, and wounds with clean bandages. Change those bandages daily.
  • Do not share items that touch skin, like towels, washcloths, clothing, razors, etc. (Tip: remind kids that this applies in all circumstances, including when they've forgotten their gym clothes and are facing a detention.)
  • As a matter of general health, do not share water bottles or cups.

Also, the email sent home to parents specified that students should "[p]romptly report wounds or other skin lesions to coaches, trainers, or school nurses." My daughter cut her leg in practice recently and when I asked what her coach said, my daughter replied, "Nothing. I didn't tell her. She couldn't do anything about it anyway."

We stressed with my daughter tonight that a) she could have gotten bandaids for the cuts and b) she needs to report injuries, even when there isn't anything the coach can do. A lot of kids want to look tough, but avoiding infections is more important.

MRSA often first appears to be similar to a spider bite, according to the CDC. Symptoms include a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:

  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Painful
  • Warm to the touch
  • Full of pus or other drainage
  • Accompanied by a fever

There are photos of MRSA infections online, but I'll leave you to Google those because, well, they're pretty nasty. Should you suspect MRSA, the CDC advises, "Contact your doctor if you think you have an infection. Finding infections early and getting care make it less likely that the infection will become severe."

MRSA is treatable, but doing so is easier when it's caught early. Thankfully my daughter's schoolmates are on the mend and expected to be fine.

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