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by Tara Kompare, Pharm.D.


If you had asked me five years ago whether parents and teachers would know what “MRSA” stood for, I would have exclaimed a definitive “No, thank goodness!” That’s because community-acquired MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus) used to be a rarity. Now, unfortunately, I have seen more cases of it than I ever imagined. Hopefully the following will help keep you kids clear of this bad bacteria in the upcoming school year.

What is MRSA?

   MRSA is a type of bacteria that is very resistant to most antibiotics. It used to be seen mainly in a hospital setting but more recently is making a grand entrance into the community. This type of skin infection often resembles pimples or boils that may be very tender, painful, and oozy. What is so dangerous is that this infection of the skin can travel deeper, into the bones, blood stream, heart, and lungs, which can cause life-threatening infections even in otherwise healthy individuals.

How is MRSA transmitted?

   MRSA enters the skin usually through a cut or scrape and is transmitted via direct skin-to-skin contact. Some of the risk factors for acquiring community-associated MRSA include:
• Young age
• Participation in contact sports
• Sharing of personal items such as towels or razors
• Weakened immune system
• Crowded and/or unsanitary conditions

What is the treatment?

   This is the tough part. Treating an infection caused by MRSA often involves multiple antibiotics and vigilant wound care. It is critical for persons infected with this type of bacteria to keep their sores covered with clean, dry bandages until properly healed. If the bacteria spread to other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs, or blood stream, hospitalization may be necessary.


Some important prevention tips include:

• Cover all scrapes and cuts with Band-Aids until fully healed. MRSA enters the skin very easily through open wounds so it is best to keep them protected, especially at school and when playing contact sports.

• Make sure your child practices proper hygiene and hand washing techniques. It is also a good idea for them to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in their backpacks.

• Shower after participation in games and practices

• If someone in your home has MRSA, take care to properly sanitize all linens, preferably in hot water with bleach.

   Even with all of the necessary precautions, MRSA can still affect the most vigilant and healthy of individuals. If your child develops what looks like a bug bite or boil that then starts to become filled with fluid, make an appointment with a doctor. He or she will likely culture the wound if it looks infected to determine the cause, and then prescribe the necessary antibiotics. It is equally important to ensure that your child finishes the antibiotic as prescribed to prevent future resistance.

P.S.S. (Parent Sanity Saver): To find out more about outbreaks of MRSA in your community, visit the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.

TARA KOMPARE, Pharm.D., is the mother of two girls. Her book, The Colic Chronicles: A Mother’s Survival Guide to Calming Your Baby While Keeping Your Cool (Da Capo Lifelong), is now available in bookstores and online. Check out www.themedicinemom.com and www.thecolicchronicles.com or email her at drk@themedicinemom.com.

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