Why Children Are MRSA’s Favorite Victims
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA has become an epidemic. There are thousands of people infected by these bacteria every year. Some individuals will become ill, while others are carriers of bacteria. MRSA used to be only a problem for those in the healthcare setting. However, in recent years, MRSA has been found to be in the community. As a result, the CDC has separated MRSA into two different categories. There is now HA-MRSA, which is Hospital Acquired MRSA and CA-MRSA, which is Community Acquired MRSA.
CA-MRSA brings with it a disturbing new trend. More and more children are getting infected with these deadly bacteria. CA-MRSA seems to hit the victim harder and faster than HA-MRSA. There have been several cases of CA-MRSA killing young otherwise healthy children. So why are children at risk for this deadly disease?
Why Children Have High Risk Factors
Babies and small children may be at risk for developing MRSA because they still have developing immune systems, there are other causes too. Some studies have suggested that children do not have a fully developed immune system until they are six years old. Some children may have stronger immune systems than others. There are many factors that can affect a child’s immune system. For example, children who were breast fed tend to have stronger immune systems than those who were not.
So if a child has a weakened immune system or one that is not fully developed he will be a prime target for a MRSA infection. It can easily overtake a child’s system and leave them very ill or worse.
One big risk factor for MRSA in children is the close contact children have with other children. Schools, day-care centers, and playgrounds are breeding grounds for bacteria. Children spend a lot of time with each other playing, sharing items such as pencils, books, food and other items. Germs are passed back and forth on their hands constantly.
Children are constantly getting cuts, bug bites, and scrapes from a normal day of play. These breaks in the skin make the perfect entryway for the bacteria that is being passed back and forth. These bacteria get beneath the skin and can cause a boil or other lump that gets very red and swollen. This bump may also start oozing pus and it may develop a foul odor.
Face it, children have poor hygiene habits. They don’t think about washing their hands after using the bathroom or before eating. Most children do not look forward to a bath or shower. They are perfectly happy dirty. However, poor hygiene is one of the biggest reasons why MRSA is spread so easily. Therefore, children are prime targets for an infection.
How to Protect Children From MRSA
The best way to protect your children from it is to teach them good hygiene habits. Start teaching them as soon as they can understand. If you can instill these habits at a very young age, they will continue to practice them when they are away from you.
Here is what you should teach your child to help protect them:
- Teach your child to wash his hands often for a full 15 seconds. Have your child scrub his hands while he sings the alphabet song. This will take 15 seconds and allow your child to practice his ABCs at the same time. Make sure your child washes his hands after playing with other children and after playing with pets. Stress the importance of good hand washing after using the bathroom and before eating.
- Have your child carry hand sanitizing wipes or hand sanitizing gel to use when hand washing is not possible.
- Teach your child to not towels, uniforms, clothing or other items that have come into contact with someone else’s bare skin.
- If your child has a scrape or cut keep it covered with a clean bandage until it is healed. This will keep bacteria from entering the wound.
- If your child must share sports equipment, have him wipe it down with an antiseptic solution before use. If this is not possible, use a towel to provide a barrier between bare skin and the equipment.
- If your child has any type of skin condition, including dry skin, use creams or moisturizers as directed by your doctor to promote healing. The skin is a barrier to protect the body from germs. It is critical you keep it healthy.
- Use bug repellent to protect your child from bug bites.
- Always use sunscreen on your child to protect him from sunburn, which could lead to blistering and peeling.
Even after all this teaching, it can still be difficult to protect your children from bacteria. They are unable to understand the health threat of MRSA. The first thing you need to do is educate yourself on what MRSA may look like in your child. Here are a few things to look for on your child’s skin:
- Red bumps that appear quickly.
- Swollen area on the skin.
- Complaints of pain in the area.
- A bump or bumps that are draining or yellowish in color, which indicates they are full of pus.
- Areas that are not healing despite treatment with antibiotics.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Chest Pain
Many people will mistake an infection for a spider bite. This is because the area resembles a spider bite when it starts. However, it will continue to grow bigger and become more swollen and painful over time.
It is important to check your child’s skin during bath time. If you notice small open areas or pimple like areas keep a close eye on these. Any areas that are swollen and draining should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can take a culture of the drainage to determine if it is MRSA. The sooner the proper treatment is started, the better the chance of a full recovery.
Unfortunately, children are a prime target for MRSA infections. However, you can help your children protect themselves by teaching them proper hygiene from a very young age.