How to Recognize MRSA Symptoms

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MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a technical way of describing a species of bacteria that has become resistant to known antibiotics. MRSA has become a more and more prevalent problem in situations where medicine is used often or incompletely. It is especially dangerous in facilities like hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons in patients with open wounds and reduced immune function. It is less common in other places, though it can potentially be transferred from these areas to others. MRSA has also been called the superbug, and the flesh-eating bacteria. If left untreated, it can do serious damage to the body. Here is a look at some of the symptoms that are common:

Red Welt
If you get MRSA on your external skin, one of the first symptoms is a large, red welt. This is also a common symptom for an allergic reaction, a pimple or boil, an ingrown hair, a regular bacterial swelling like an infected hangnail, or a bite from an insect or spider. If you get a red welt that is painful, then watch it, but wait to see if it begins to go away on its own before you become concerned. If the welt remains the same, increases only slightly or decreases over 24 to 48 hours, then it is unlikely to be MRSA. If it progresses substantially over this time, then you should see your doctor for culture and diagnosis.

Fever, Rashes and Boils
The next step in a developing MRSA reaction is often to see your small bump or welt develop into a larger, pus-filled boil. This can often be accompanied with a fever or rash, and may be quite painful to the touch. These may open up to become abscesses, and at this point will likely be so painful that you will want to see a doctor to seek relief. If left untreated at this stage, the wound will become an open abscess, and skin will begin to deteriorate around it.

Seeking medical care for MRSA will usually begin with a visit to your doctor and a culture. They need to examine the bacteria they find under a microscope in order to make certain that they are dealing with the strain that they think they have. Advanced bacterial infections like Staph that remains resistant to drugs will look very similar, and the medicines that they have for MRSA are being kept only for emergencies to try to prevent more bacterial resistance. Often, the doctor will begin one treatment to get you relief, with a plan to change the medication if the culture confirms something different. Antibiotics and sometimes painkillers will be administered, and if you are believed to have MRSA, you may be kept in the hospital for observation until the treatment has worked.


Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Recognize MRSA Symptoms," in, February 21, 2016, (accessed August 10, 2022).