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Experts Corner

Children's Health

Keeping Your Kids Clear of MRSA
By Tara Kompare, Pharm.D.

If you would have asked me five years ago if 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 facts 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 which 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
  • Person with a 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.

Prevention: 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 taking 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 which then starts to become fluid filled, it is recommended that you 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 any 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.

Medicine Mom Update: Dr. Tara's column is currently undergoing a format change and will be temporarily on hold until its new launch in January 2009. The new layout will consist of a Q&A segment with reader submitted questions related to family health and happiness. This includes conditions affecting both parent and child. Please send any and all questions to Dr. Tara directly at drk@themedicinemom.com and be sure to include your name and town with your e-mail.

About the Author:
Tara Kompare, Pharm.D. is a doctor of pharmacy and mother of two amazing little 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. You can check out both of her websites at www.themedicinemom.com and www.thecolicchronicles.com.

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