Staphylococcus Aureus, or S. Aureus as I’ll gladly abbreviate it to, is a bacteria that commonly colonises the surface of the skin. It makes up part of the natural microbiota which lives on the skin and normally doesn’t cause any problems.
It has been found that those who suffer from atopic dermatitis/ eczema have more of a certain strain of S. Aureus than those who do not. This strain of S. Aureus expresses toxins which contribute to the intensity of symptoms by stimulating histamine production, damaging skin cells and producing proinflammatory proteins. In a study produced in 2014 it was found to excrete a biofilm over the skin which blocks sweat ducts, leading to inflammation and itching. Samples taken from patients with atopic dermatitis showed those with the most severe inflammation had the highest levels of S. Aureus suggesting a correlation between this bacteria and severity of eczema.
Should the strains of this bacteria find their way through the skin barrier, they can cause issues such as infected eczema (hands up who’s been there!), abscesses, blood stream infections and joint infections. However, don’t panic if you’ve got some open eczema or wounds, most strains of S. Aureus are easily treatable with antibiotics should they cause infection. There are strains that are resistant, however these are more likely to be contracted within a healthcare setting, not at home and are still treatable just with a different type of antibiotic.
What does an infection look like?
So how can we recognise that we have a S. Aureus infection and not just bad eczema or TSW…
Here are a few of the more common signs of an infection to look out for;
A yellow/ orange oozing crust forming over the skin – This was something I noticed during TSW and I’ve included a picture below!
If your eczema suddenly stops responding to a treatment that previously would have been successful e.g. a certain cream or emollient ( difficult one for TSW sufferers here)
Sores that are pus filled
Bumps on the skin that are swollen and painful to touch
Swollen lymph nodes
The beginning of an S. Aureus infection (above) compared to what I left it to until I sought help (below)
YIKES! Sounds nasty…how do I prevent that?
The best way to ensure you don’t get a S. Aureus infection is to protect the skins barrier as much as you can as well as trying to keep you hands clean.
Wash hands regularly with a soap that won’t cause you irritation – You don’t want to wash you hands and then scratch them to shreds!
TrY nOt To ScRaTcH – I hated even typing that but its true, try not to scratch as you could be passing the bacteria from under your nails into the scratches. To combat the itchiness, hold something cold like an ice pack or an empty glass that’s been in the freezer on there and press down. Count to ten slowly and hopefully the itch sensation will be gone by the time you reach ten. I used to use a fidget toy to stop my hands from constantly finding their way back to scratching my skin. Using silk/ linen bedding and keeping cool at night-time will help with the night time itchies. Wear loose clothing!
Applying creams through a pump or squirty top will stop any bacteria accumulating in tubs of cream/ emollient.
Something I found useful to begin with was applying diluted apple cider vinegar to areas of open wounds and scratches. Yes it smells and unfortunately does sting at first but is less harsh that products such as surgical spirit.
Keep bedding clean and dry and clothing too! If you’re scratching at night and opening wounds, don’t leave your bedding. Give it a good wash on a hot cycle and keep rotating with clean bedding. It’s a pain and not so eco friendly but a raging infection is the last thing you need!
Just remember that although you may have eczema or TSW and Staphylococcus Aureus lives on our skin, does not mean that you’re going to contract an infection! Be vigilant with the above preventative points and you should be fine. If you do think you’ve got an infection, please go to the doctor. I waited a long time to see a doctor about mine because I was terrified they’d prescribe me steroids or nothing. Instead, I was given antibiotics and the infection cleared up within a week!
Thanks for reading, Happy Tuesday x
Any Questions? Drop me an email through the contact form!
Geoghegan JA, Irvine AD, Foster TJ. Staphylococcus aureus and Atopic Dermatitis: A Complex and Evolving Relationship. Trends Microbiol. 2018 Jun;26(6):484-497. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2017.11.008. Epub 2017 Dec 9. PMID: 29233606.
Byrd AL, Deming C, Cassidy SKB, Harrison OJ, Ng WI, Conlan S; NISC Comparative Sequencing Program; Belkaid Y, Segre JA, Kong HH. Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis strain diversity underlying pediatric atopic dermatitis. Sci Transl Med. 2017 Jul 5;9(397):eaal4651. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aal4651. PMID: 28679656; PMCID: PMC5706545.
Allen HB, Vaze ND, Choi C, Hailu T, Tulbert BH, Cusack CA, Joshi SG. The presence and impact of biofilm-producing staphylococci in atopic dermatitis. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 Mar;150(3):260-5. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.8627. PMID: 24452476.