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The term "staph infection" is a very common term. People have heard the term, but few people know what it really means. To diagnose a staph infection, a doctor will use a series of blood tests designed to identify what bacteria is causing the infection and what medications can be used to treat it.


The staphylococcus bacterium is a form of bacteria that exists in a dormant form on the skin, and in the bodies, of most healthy individuals. A staph infection is when some event, such as surgery or a large open wound, excites the staphylococcus bacteria to the point where it begins to infect the body and spread quickly. A staph infection can become a life-threatening condition for anyone who contracts it, and it can strike the surface of the skin or the internal organs quickly.


One of the more common forms of staph infection is food poisoning. This normally occurs when food is either improperly prepared, or the person preparing the food has the bacteria on their person and transfers it to the food through improper hygiene. For example, a chef who forgets to wash their hands after using the restroom could infect the next meal they may with food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning usually strike within a few hours of eating the meal and they include nausea accompanied by chronic vomiting, severe abdominal cramps and chronic diarrhea.


The most common symptoms of a staph infection are seen on the surface of the skin. These symptoms include bright red rashes that can grow rapidly, boils and other lumps on the surface of the skin that could be painful to the touch, a swelling of the skin that can get warm to the touch and be very painful to the person suffering from it and blisters that will sometimes burst and ooze a clear liquid that will harden on the surface of the skin.


A staph infection can occur anywhere in the body and cause a variety of unseen symptoms that can get worse very quickly. These symptoms include pain and swelling in the joints, a fever accompanied by chills, chronic and severe headaches, psychological symptoms such as confusion and anxiety, and muscle cramps and spasms that can be so painful that the person is unable to stand or walk.


The staphylococcus bacteria is very adaptable when it comes to medication. According to the Mayo Clinic, less than 10 percent of the staph infections diagnosed today can be treated successfully with penicillin. In order to treat the infection, a doctor will usually try several antibiotic medications until the correct combination is found. The doctor will try to identify the type of bacteria that is causing the staph infection before using any medication.

George N. Root III

George N. Root III began writing professionally in 1985. His publishing credits include a weekly column in the "Lockport Union Sun and Journal" along with the "Spectrum," the "Niagara Falls Gazette," "Tonawanda News," "Watertown Daily News" and the "Buffalo News." Root has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the State University of New York, Buffalo.