How to Reduce the Risk of MRSA Infections in Kids

4 ways to deal with the alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant skin infections.

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The number of kids with antibiotic-resistant infections of the head and neck has jumped alarmingly in the past few years, according to new research. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, accounted for 28.1 percent of children's head and neck staph infections in 2006, up from 11.8 percent in 2001. Although the rate of MRSA infections has been climbing for years, this jump was so big that the researchers, from Emory University, called it "alarming." They published their study of hospital laboratory reports in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Ears were the most likely source of the bad bugs, followed by the nose and sinuses, then the neck. MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics more powerful than methicillin, but who wants to go that route, particularly with children? I've previously described 4 simple ways to reduce your family's risk from MRSA, based in information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here they are again, in short form:

1. Wash hands often. MRSA is spread by skin-to-skin contact, and people rub their noses many times in the course of the day. Cleaner hands means less likelihood of MRSA in the nose.

2. Put Band-aids on cuts or scrapes, to reduce both the risk of acquiring a MRSA infection and the odds of spreading the bug if the wound is already infected.

3. Tell children not to share clothes, towels, or other personal items. Kids' love of sharing their stuff has been blamed for several MRSA outbreaks in school athletic teams.

4. If a family member has a skin infection and also a fever, call the doctor.

The CDC has a good rundown on the risk of picking up MRSA at school, and the best ways to battle the bug.