Skin Infections

The skin is the body's first barrier against bacteria that cause infections. Even though many bacteria live on the surface of our skin, healthy skin can usually protect us from infection.

Bacterial skin infections can affect a small spot or may spread, affecting a large area. They can range from a treatable infection to a life-threatening skin condition. These bacteria can live harmlessly on many skin surfaces, especially around the nose, mouth, genitals, and anus.

When the skin is punctured or broken for any reason, bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection such as pimples or boils.


What are the symptoms of a skin infection?

Symptoms of a skin infection include redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness of the skin, and boils or blisters.

How do skin infections spread?

Bacteria can transfer from the infected skin of a person onto commonly shared objects or surfaces, and get onto the skin of the person who uses it next.

Bacteria can rub off the skin of an infected person onto the skin of another person during prolonged (skin to skin) contact between them.

Examples of commonly shared objects include personal hygiene objects i.e. towels, soap, clothes and athletic equipment -- in other words, anything that could have touched the skin of an infected person can carry the bacteria to the skin of another person.

The cleanest person can get a skin infection.

How can I prevent myself from getting infected?

Avoid prolonged skin to skin contact with anyone you suspect could have a skin infection.

Do not share personal items with other persons.

Clean objects and surfaces that you share with other persons, such as athletic equipment, phones, door knobs, light switches, before you use them.

What should I do if I think I have a skin infection?

If you suspect that you might have a skin infection, consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent the infection from getting worse.

Be sure to follow each direction from your healthcare provider closely.

Finish all prescribed medication even when you start to feel better.

If my health care provider has told me that I have an antibiotic-resistant skin infection, what can I do to keep others from getting infected?

You can prevent spreading an antibiotic-resistant skin infection to those you live with or others by following these steps:

  1. Keep the infected area covered with clean, dry bandages. Pus from infected wounds is very infectious.
  2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, especially after changing your bandages or touching the infected skin.
  3. Regularly clean your bathroom and personal items. Wash linens and clothes that become soiled with hot water and bleach, when possible.
  4. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.