What I’ve Learned from Dealing with a Staph Infection
Over the past 2 months, I have been dealing with a beautiful staph infection. I say beautiful because I have learned so much from this experience. And when you learn something, the best way to put it into action is by sharing it with those who may benefit from it!
Staph infections and eczema
Although all humans live with bacteria on their skin, some good and bad, those living with atopic dermatitis commonly have harmful bacteria on their skin known as Staphylococcus aureus or “staph.” And when not handled effectively and quickly, it can turn into a serious infection.
People with AD are more prone to these infections because we tend to not produce enough antimicrobial peptides or AMPS (natural antibiotics) to kill off staph. Due to lack of research, we are unaware of whether the presence of staph on the skin is a symptom or one of the causes of AD.1
Types of staph infections
According to the National Eczema Association, there are three most common types of staph infections in people living with atopic dermatitis:2
- Furuncles (“Boils”)
Furuncles normally tend to start in the hair follicle, where it then becomes infected. The boils can grow on any area of your body but are commonly seen on the face and neck. Boils tend to be red, raised, and contain fluid.
Impetigo, the staph I'm currently dealing with, usually occurs when the eczema skin is open and weepy. The result can end up looking like honey-colored crusts on the skin, causing redness, pain, and discomfort.
Cellulitis, considered one of the more serious staph infections, can develop as a rash, blisters, and fever. The infected areas are usually very red and painful to touch.2
Detect infections early
At first, I just thought my skin was drying and oozing out of nowhere. Literally, I woke up one day with an open wound and crust on my face. I thought, “How weird… must just be my eczema flaring up.” At one point, I even thought it was cold sore clumps rising up to the surface, so I applied antiviral for a few days.
Boy oh boy was I wrong. I never had a staph infection before so the symptoms seemed rather rare to me. Be sure to pay close attention to any new symptoms that arise on your skin. If it doesn’t look familiar, research and consult with a doctor immediately. Especially because staph infections are known to be highly contagious.
Listen to your intuition
Oddly enough, after two weeks of dealing with this flare, I had a powerful dream. All I remember was repeating, “Research staph infection. Research staph infection.” So when I woke up, that’s exactly what I did. And that’s how I found that I had impetigo versus your average eczema flare.
Now, the universe or God may not necessarily speak to you in your dreams, however, it’s important to be still so you can listen to your body and hear what it desires. Practices like meditation, journaling, and reading can support this.
Finish antibiotics to its completion
I made one of the biggest mistakes in my healing journey - I stopped taking antibiotics midway through its completion because I “thought” I was getting better. BIG BIG NO NO. This set back my healing progress significantly. You can read more about why in an article coming soon.
So in learning this lesson, please be rigorous and committed about completing the fullness of your prescribed antibiotics. There’s no doubt in my mind I would be further along in my journey if I did so.
Moisturizers and staph
At first, I was using Aquaphor to try and moisturize the areas that were oozing and extremely dry. After my second doctor’s appointment, I learned that this was probably creating more harm than good. You can read more about that experience in my article about lanolin.
So the doctor prescribed me with Eletone, a nonsteroidal cream, commonly used for rashes and dermatitis. Let me tell ya’ll, this was a HUGE game changer. It took away the dryness, itchiness, and pain immediately! After the application of this cream, I have been able to sleep even while still healing because I am no longer waking up in the middle of the night with itchiness and discomfort.
Avoid spread of infection
In the beginning, I would wet a hand towel and place it over my infection for 10 minutes or so. This would create elasticity and flexibility for my skin, in which I would then be able to apply moisturizer. I then thought, that by hand washing my wet towels, I would relieve any infection from spreading. I was wrong.
I switched to using paper towels that I can easily throw away as soon as I use it. This made things more sanitary. I also washed my bedsheets, towels, and clothing with hot water during this time. This has ensured that I kill the infection or any harmful cells that are lingering around.
Ask for support!
This staph infection has made me immobile in many ways, specifically when it comes to speaking, eating, and moving my mouth. It has also created moments of insecurity, sadness, and frustration.
That’s why I’m so fortunate to have the support of my parents and my partner during this time. Home-cooked soups and juices, as well as words of affirmation have supported me tremendously. Reach out to your friends and family. Be vulnerable and ask them for support.
Be patient and compassionate with yourself
I never thought I would be dealing with a staph infection for this long, nor did I think it would leave me unable to smile, laugh, and eat comfortably.
So in moments of frustration, I am reminded to give myself compassion. I am reminded to be patient with myself and my healing, as healing does not happen overnight. And I am reminded to love myself even when I don’t “feel” like it.
In summary, learn from my experience, avoid the same mistakes, and have faith that healing is happening and already occurring. And if you or anyone you know has a staph infection, have them visit a doctor or health care professional immediately.
DISCLAIMER: Everything mentioned above is my personal experience and it is what has worked best for me. Please reach out to your doctor or health provider to get more information on how best to heal.
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?