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What is a MRSA Rash?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, is an antibiotic-resistant infection that often presents as a skin rash. A MRSA rash occurs when the Staphylococcus bacteria infect the skin, which is one of the most common sites of MRSA infections. This type of rash may appear different in different people; common variations include the appearance of boils, abscesses, impetigo, and a general reddening of the skin.

A MRSA rash is one of the first signs of the infection. At first, it may appear as red patches of skin that may be itchy or appear inflamed. As the infection grows, pus swarms into the infected area, creating raised bumps and cysts that look like pimples. Often, these will burst open, oozing pus and leaving an open, red sore on the infection site.

One of the biggest problems with MRSA infections is that they are incredibly contagious. People who are used to scrapes and cuts as a result of outdoor activity may not notice the infection and have no idea that they are carrying a potentially fatal infection. Any physical contact with a MRSA rash can result in infection; even touching an object that has been touched by an infected person can pass the bacterial infection as well. Locker rooms and dormitories are high risk areas for contracting these rashes, because of low hygiene standards and a high rate of physical interaction. Hospitals are also a major hub for the infection, particularly in intensive care units and post-operative areas.

If not promptly treated, or if the drug-resistant infection wards off medication, a MRSA rash can quickly spread both on the skin and inside the body. Symptoms that a rash has spread to internal organs include fever and chills, dropping blood pressure, and the development of heart or lung problems. In some cases, treatments are ineffective and death can occur in a very short span of time.

Traditional tests to determine if a skin infection is a MRSA rash are done through nasal or tissue samples. Some areas now use rapid DNA testing, since other testing methods can take up to two days for results. Treatment is often with antibiotics that have been shown to work on MRSA infections, but doctors may also try to treat the rash without drugs. Since MRSA is already drug-resistant, there is concern that using new antibiotics could allow the bacteria to develop even more resistance.

Most of the time, skin will heal normally and not leave marks or scars. Some people may experience hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, for several months after the rash has been treated. In severe cases, if scars occur, some doctors recommend using vitamin E oil or scar-reducing treatments after the rash is gone to minimize noticeable scarring.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for The Health Board. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon337095 — On Jun 03, 2013

I've had mrsa 17 times and had six hospital stays. I have scars throughout my whole body from it and more keep coming out.

By Azuza — On Dec 12, 2012

@LoriCharlie - A MRSA skin infection is definitely not pleasant. A friend of mine is a nurse, and she caught it from working in a hospital. The whole thing dragged on for a few months, and she ended up having to take a lot of time off of work. Luckily she's fine now.

By LoriCharlie — On Dec 12, 2012

I'm really surprised that a rash from a MRSA infection doesn't usually leave scars. I've seen some pictures of MRSA, and it usually looks pretty serious. Sometimes the skin is very, very swollen. I would have thought it would leave a big scar.

I guess it's lucky that getting MRSA doesn't leave scars at least. Because from what I've heard, having MRSA is very unpleasant and can even result in a hospital stay.

By Monika — On Dec 11, 2012

@dautsun - It does sound like it's easy to mistake a MRSA or other staph related rash for something else, at least at first. That's pretty scary, because as the article said, it's important to treat a MRSA staph infection right away, since it can be fatal.

By dautsun — On Dec 10, 2012

I have had a staph infection, although luckily it wasn't MRSA. I think I actually had it before MRSA became a big problem outside of hospitals. Anyway, I had a rash and other skin symptoms pretty similar to what people have with MRSA.

It started off as some itchy red patches, but quickly progressed to boils. I was getting them all over my legs, and at first I thought it was just irritation from shaving. However, once the boils started getting very large and swollen, I realized I needed to see a doctor.

Luckily, my case of staph wasn't antibiotic resistant, so I went on a 10 day course of antibiotics and then I was fine.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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