So long, staph infections…

File this under “things I never thought I’d share on the internet”. I’m going to tell you how my family and I managed to get never-ending staph infections under control. It wasn’t easy, but it’s possible, and it’s so nice to not have painful skin infections.

Before I share, let me say the following:

  1. I’m not a doctor or a nurse or a medical practitioner. I have had a lot of staph infections and I’ve spoken to multiple nurses, physicians assistants, and doctors about how to minimize the risk of getting staph infections. I’ve also done a lot of research. That doesn’t make me an expert which brings me my next point…
  2. If you think you have a staph infection right now you need to go to the doctor. NOW. Stop reading this. Go make the appointment or go to urgent care. Staph infections can get to be serious in no time at all.

Enough disclaimers. Here are the details:

My husband and I used to get staph infections frequently. Staph is what as known as a “community associated illness”. It means that when you’re around a lot of people in population dense environments, you can get it. Military communities are a prime petri dish for staph. I used to feel terrible about it, like, what am I doing wrong? Am I not cleaning my home well? Am I failing at taking showers? Turns out, it’s quite common to get a staph infection. It’s not you, it’s just that staph is the worst and it’s everywhere. Some people get skin infections from staph, some don’t, and you can have the staph bacteria on your body for years without ever having an issue. Thems the breaks, kids!

Just one more note: the few times we had our staph infections tested, we had Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), not Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The preventative steps that you would take at home seem to be the same based on my research.

For many reasons my husband and I never were on the staph protocol that is given by doctors. It involves medicine, body washes, etc. If you haven’t spoken with your doctor about it, you should. It is quite effective, from what I’ve read about it. But, as I said, for multiple reasons we were never on the staph protocol prescribed by docs. Eventually, I started taking steps of my own to banish the bug. It’s worked for us so far and we haven’t had staph in over a year. Do I know for certain that we don’t have staph in our home? Oh no, I have no way of knowing and I bet there’s staph bacteria somewhere on our bodies or maybe in our home, but we’ve reduced the skin infections caused by staph, and that’s what matters to me. Here are some of the steps we have taken:

Wash your towels daily. Wash sheets daily, if you can, or at least once a week if you don’t do so already. Wash all of your clothing in hot water and the recommended cleaners above, if you can. Then dry everything in the dryer. Don’t air dry.

We don’t wash our clothes in hot water anymore, just my husband’s uniforms and everyone’s bedding.

We still wash towels daily in hot water with bleach. That might seem excessive, but I can’t run the risk of getting more staph infections, so it’s worth it to me.

  • Wash your bathroom down with bleach and hot water, if you can. If not, use an antibacterial wash of some sort and follow the directions on the bottle with care.

The bathtub, shower, sinks, countertops, floors, cabinet fronts, doorknobs…anything you touch. I actually try to wipe down as many hard surfaces in my house with an antibacterial spray/wipes when staph recurs in our house. But the bathrooms are of particular focus because the humidity in that room makes it a prime spot for staph bacteria to thrive.

I do this once a week.

  • Toss your razors and always air-dry the new ones after giving them a dip in alcohol or bleach.

This is a big one because staph often infects hair follicles and shaving irritates your skin and hair follicles. Shave, then take razor out of your bathtub/shower, give it a dip in bleach and water or rubbing alcohol, rinse it, and let it dry. Don’t place the razor back in the humidity of the shower area where it might not get thoroughly dry.

We do this every day. The drying part, not the tossing part.

  • Ditto for your body scrubbers, poofs, exfoliators. 

You’ll need to toss these (preferred) or disinfect them if possible. Don’t use this sort of thing while you have a staph infection – you don’t want to scratch your skin or create any sort of openings on the skin surface. Exfoliators and poofs create very tiny scratches in the skin surface.

  • Take a bleach or vinegar bath.

This is an excellent study about different methods for preventing recurring staph infections. They recommend a solution of “¼ cup household bleach in ¼ bathtub (~13 gal) of water”. We soaked for about 15 minutes at a time. I’ve also been told vinegar can be used instead of bleach, but I haven’t tried that. One doctor who helped me with a particularly bad staph infection told me that the bleach bath is about the same strength as a chlorinated pool. So, if the bleach idea worries you, think of it as being in a tiny pool and jump in. Rinsing yourself off well afterward to reduce the drying effect the bleach or vinegar will have on your skin.

We don’t currently do this step.

You can purchase surgical scrub and wash with it once a week or so if the bleach bath idea makes you cringe. Surgical scrub can stain, so don’t get it on fabrics. I heard this idea from a physician’s assistant who worked in a wound care clinic. He is regularly exposed to staph and he felt that a full body wash with surgical scrub has helped him reduce his risk of staph infections.

We don’t currently do this step.

  • Use antibacterial ointment on your ears and nostrils.

To staph bacteria, your ears and nostrils are a warm cozy spot to hang out. You could have staph bacteria living there and not have an infection. Put antibacterial ointment on q-tips and swab your nose and ears. We did this once a day for two to three weeks when we had a staph infection. We don’t currently do this.

  • Wash your hands and body with antibacterial soap (optional).

I have never been a big fan of antibacterial products. Antibacterial products actually have created the antibiotic-resistant bacteria we deal with now! When we had an active infection in our house, we used antibacterial everything. Once I felt we had it back under control, we went back to regular soaps. According to the FDA you don’t really need to use antibacterial products to effectively battle most bacteria. I probably won’t repeat this step if we ever have staph infections in our house again.

  • Stock up on alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been shown to be more effective than chemical-based hand sanitizers at killing germs. Alcohol-based sanitizers also don’t contribute to the antibiotic resistance of bacteria, so that’s a good thing!

I carry hand sanitizer in my backpack for when we’re out and about.

  • Don’t itch and if you touch the infected area wash your hands immediately.

I get a bit crazy about this when my husband or I have a skin infection. If you have an itch you just have to scratch then rub it with your fingertips – not your nails. Then wash your hands immediately.

I hope this post helps you stop recurring staph infections in your home. If you have steps you’ve taken in your home to help prevent staph, please share in the comments!

Photo Credit: NIAID under Creative Commons License