What Happens If A Staph Infection Goes Untreated?

Our bodies are exposed to plenty of bacteria on any given day. Bacteria can live in the gut, on the skin, in the mouth — in fact, it inhabits practically every part of our bodies, according to the National Institutes of Health. But a common type of bacteria called Staphylococcus can be dangerous if it enters the body.

Infections caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria are typically called staph infections (via Cleveland Clinic). Staphylococcus is an incredibly common bacteria, with more than 30 different types. It can live on the skin and in the nose without causing any harm but can make its way into the body and cause infection through a cut on the skin, by food poisoning, during breastfeeding, and by wearing a tampon for too long. Infection happens most often on the skin but can also affect the digestive system, breasts, bones, lungs, heart, and bloodstream. Staph infection is more likely in those who use intravenous drugs, have chronic health conditions like diabetes, have weak immune systems, are breastfeeding, use tampons, are hospitalized, or who have recently had surgery.

The importance of getting treatment

Because staph infections can happen in so many different parts of the body, symptoms can vary (via Mayo Clinic). On the skin, infections are usually mild and can cause boils, large blisters, and sores. In food poisoning, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and low blood pressure, but usually no fever. Toxic shock syndrome, often caused by wearing a tampon for too long, can cause a high fever, nausea, vomiting, a rash on the palms and soles of the feet, muscle aches, confusion, and stomach pain. Staph infection in joints can cause swelling, severe pain, and fever. Staph infections are usually treated with antibiotics and sometimes with wound drainage.

If a staph infection goes untreated, it can become deadly very quickly (via Cleveland Clinic). The bacteria may enter your bloodstream and cause septic shock, which causes very low blood pressure and is life-threatening. In some cases, the infection can even be resistant to antibiotics, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is deadly. You should contact your doctor right away if you have any signs of a staph infection.