MRSA Infection In Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, And Risks

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Methicillin-resistant MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a genetic form of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that causes significant skin infections in children due to antibiotic resistance. MRSA infection in children is typically hard to treat and can have life-threatening consequences. Therefore, seek medical care if you suspect your child has an MRSA skin infection.

Read on to know more about MRSA skin infection in children, including its causes, risk factors, symptoms, complications, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies.

Causes Of MRSA Infections In Children

MRSA bacteria can be present on the skin and in the nasal passages of many people but may not cause diseases. The bacteria may cause infection if there is a cut or wound on the skin or if the child’s immune system is weak.

Previously, MRSA was a nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection. However, these days, one in three people (33%) carries S. aureus bacteria, and two in 100 people carry MRSA on the skin without knowing it. The risk for MRSA is higher outside healthcare settings (1).

MRSA is contagious through skin-to-skin contact. Touching, sneezing, and coughing are significant sources of how children get MRSA infection (2). Poor hand hygiene and not following cough etiquette increase the risk of transmission of the bacteria.

Risk Factors And Complications Of MRSA Infection In Children

The following factors may increase the risk for MRSA infection in children (3).

  • Skin injuries
  • Piercing
  • Tattooing
  • Previous MRSA infection

MRSA infection can often be high in certain groups of the population, such as children belonging to a sports team or peer groups, since they may share sports equipment or clothing and skin-to-skin contact is high.

The possible complications of MRSA infection in an untreated child may include the following (4).

  • Bacteria may damage nearby tissues.
  • MRSA may cause fatal complications, such as sepsis (blood infection), septic shock, pneumonia, necrotizing fasciitis osteomyelitis (bone infection), or endocarditis (heart infection).

Signs And Symptoms Of MRSA Infection In Children

Skin infection is the most common form of MRSA infection in children. Open wounds such as scrapes or simple cuts, primarily on the legs and buttocks, can be infected with MRSA.

The MRSA skin infection may look like any of the following (5).

  • Bump on the skin that may seem like a pimple, spider bite (blackened center), or a boil
  • Red bumps with swelling and fluid leak
  • Warm or hot skin around the sore
  • Painful sores
  • Pus-filled spots or boils
  • Boils leaking pus

Note: Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching the infected area of your child’s skin.

MRSA infection’s other signs and symptoms may vary depending on the severity and affected organ or part of the body. The common signs and symptoms seen in MRSA infection may include (3):

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

These symptoms can be seen in other diseases too. Seek medical care if you are unsure about the signs of MRSA infection.

When To See A Doctor

Seek medical care if your child has MRSA infection symptoms since the infection may become severe in a short duration if left untreated.

You may also inform the doctor if the infection does not heal or worsens during the treatment. Self-treatments are not recommended for MRSA infection due to its spread and complications.

Diagnosis Of MRSA Infection In Children

Symptoms, medical history, and physical examinations are helpful in the diagnosis of MRSA infection. Usually, the bacteria are identified from a skin swab. Based on the child’s symptoms, pediatricians may order additional tests to diagnose possible complications. The tests may include blood tests, chest X-rays, echocardiogram, and cultures of samples from blood, sputum, fluid from the sores (6).

Early diagnosis and treatment could help prevent morbidities and life-threatening complications of MRSA infection.

  • Skin swab
  • Blood tests and blood culture
  • Sputum culture
  • Culture of fluid from the sores
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram

Pediatricians may order diagnostic tests based on the symptoms and signs of your child. Early diagnosis and treatment could help prevent morbidities and life-threatening complications of MRSA infection.

Treatment For MRSA Infection In Children

Treatment for MRSA infection depends on the symptoms, severity of the disease, age, and health status of your child. The following treatments are given for MRSA infection in children (4).

  • Mild skin infections are opened to drain the pus. You may have to keep the wound clean and covered as directed by the doctor. Doctors may prescribe antibiotic tablets and topical antibiotic ointment.
  • Hospitalization and IV antibiotics treatments are needed for MRSA infection that has spread to other parts of the body
  • Joint infection may be treated with surgery to drain the infected fluid from the joints.
  • Bathing in diluted bleach water is recommended for recurrent MRSA skin infections. You may use half a cup of bleach in a bathtub that is one-fourth full of water.
  • Antibiotic soaps, such as those with chlorhexidine, may be needed for recurrent infections
  • Antibiotic medicines may be given for application in nasal passages where MRSA usually resides.

It is essential to take antibiotic medications on time and complete the prescribed course, even if the signs and symptoms disappear and your child feels well. In most cases, the infection resolves within a week of antibiotic treatment, and you may make a follow-up visit to evaluate the condition.

Prevention Of MRSA Infection In Children 

Teaching the following habits to your child can decrease the risk of MRSA infection and many other infectious diseases (4).

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use a sanitizer.
  • Keep wounds clean by applying bandages.
  • Do not scratch wounds and sores.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, towels, and soaps.
  • Do not touch sores on self or anyone.
  • Disinfect toys, mats, and high-contact surfaces regularly.
  • Do not participate in contact sports with an open or bleeding wound.
  • Shower after sports practice or competitions.
  • Disinfect sports equipment.
  • Wash sports clothes and uniforms after each use.

You may also ensure hygienic measures in highly crowded areas, such as schools, daycares, and sports facilities. It is also essential to inform teachers or coaches if your child has an MRSA infection to prevent the spread of the disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it common for kids to get MRSA?

Surveys show that up to 30% of children in U.S. classrooms have MRSA either on their skin or in their noses. However, most children who are carriers of the bacteria do not develop the infection symptoms (2).

2. Is it okay to be around someone with MRSA?

It is usually okay to be around someone with MRSA as it may not affect healthy people, including pregnant women, children, and babies. However, sick people with long-term skin conditions such as eczema or open wounds may be vulnerable to the infection (7).

3. Which antibiotics may be prescribed to children with MRSA?

Children with minor skin infections may be prescribed a 2% topical mupirocin cream. Vancomycin may be prescribed in hospitalized children. Clindamycin or linezolid may be given orally or intravenously, depending on the child’s age. Tetracyclines are not used for children below eight years (8).

4. Can my child with MRSA attend school?

Children with MRSA skin infection symptoms may attend school if (2):

  • The infected areas have been properly bandaged and the wound dressing is sufficient to contain all round drainage without needing a change.
  • The child can follow hand and personal hygiene.
  • The child is not using whirlpools or swimming pools or participating in contact sports or activities that may loosen the bandages.

5. If someone gets MRSA, will it recur?

Most people do not have an active infection after treatment, but there are cases of repeated infections as well. Consult your doctor if you suspect that your child’s infection recurs (2).

MRSA infection in children can lead to significant skin lesions since the bacteria is resistant to usual antibiotic treatments. This can be spread from daycares or peer groups through sharing personal items or direct contact. Cultures from skin lesions help to diagnose MRSA infections. Oral and topical antibiotics are also prescribed for mild MRSA skin lesions. Severe MRSA infections require intravenous antibiotics and joint infections require surgical fluid drainage. Maintaining hand hygiene and not sharing personal items may prevent the spread. It is recommended to visit a pediatrician since OTC medications and home remedies may not cure MRSA infections.

Key Pointers

  • MRSA is a contagious bacterial skin infection that causes sores, pus-filled boils, and red bumps.
  • It is diagnosed by performing swab tests, blood tests, and blood culture.
  • MRSA could lead to serious complications if not treated on time.
  • The treatment for MRSA includes the administration of antibiotics.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. MRSA and Children: Parent FAQs; Healthychildren; The American Academy of Pediatrics
3. MRSA Infection in Children; Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital; Stanford Children’s Health
4. MRSA Infection in Children; The University of Rochester Medical Center
5. What Parents Need to Know about MRSA Infection; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
6. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA); St. Louis Children’s Hospital
7. Can a hospital patient with MRSA infection have visitors? National Health Services, UK
8. IDSA Guidelines on the Treatment of MRSA Infections in Adults and Children; American family Physician.
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Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more

Dr. Nikolina Zdraveska

(PhD, MD )
Dr. Nikolina Zdraveska is a pediatrician, educator and a researcher, working at University Children Hospital in Skopje, Macedonia. She received her medical degree from the Medical Faculty of Skopje in her native Macedonia and completed Residency Training at University Children’s Hospital in Skopje. She is attending physician at the Department of Neonatology for ten years and is Assistant Professor at... more

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