Skin Home > Staph Infection Symptoms and Signs

Because staph bacteria typically enter the body through a cut or scrape, signs and symptoms of a staph infection often appear on the skin first. In many cases, the first sign of this infection is a red bump that looks like a pimple, boil, or spider bite. However, staph bacteria can infect other parts of the body and cause other serious conditions, such as pneumonia.

An Introduction to Staph Infection Symptoms and Signs

A staph infection is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria (commonly referred to simply as "staph"). These bacteria can infect virtually any part of the body. The specific symptoms and signs of the resulting staph infection will depend on which part of the body is infected, along with the type of Staphylococcus bacteria that infects the area (see Staph Infection Causes).

Specific Signs and Symptoms of a Staphylococcus Infection

Staph bacteria most often enter the body through a cut or scrape, and appear as a skin infection. The first signs of a staph skin infection may include a single red bump that looks like a pimple, pustule, or boil. It may also look like a cluster of red bumps. The involved site can contain pus or other drainage, and be red, warm, swollen, and painful.
Staph infections commonly occur at sites of noticeable skin trauma, such as cuts and abrasions, and areas of the body covered by hair, such as the back of the neck, groin, buttocks, armpits, and beard area of men.
Staph infections are often mistaken for a spider bite.

More Serious Symptoms

Although less common, Staphylococcus infections can be quite serious, infecting virtually any part of the body. For example, staph bacteria can infect the lungs, causing pneumonia symptoms and signs, such as:
  • High fever (over 102.5ºF or 39.2ºC)
  • Chills
  • Trouble breathing
  • A cough with bloody, green, or yellow phlegm
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing.
Symptoms of staphylococcal pneumonia usually begin after a person has had influenza-like symptoms for several days. The staph symptoms usually begin quickly.
Other types of serious staph infections can include infections of the soft tissue (see Cellulitis Symptoms), bone (osteomyelitis), or inner lining of the heart (endocarditis).
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA for short) is also more likely to cause serious symptoms (see Signs and Symptoms of a MRSA Infection). This type of staph infection has become more common over the past several years. It can be particularly dangerous in children because their immune systems are not fully developed.
Therefore, it is important to pay attention to minor skin problems in children, such as pimples, insect bites, cuts, and scrapes. If the wound appears to be infected, see a healthcare provider right away so the problem can be diagnosed and treated, if necessary.
(Click Staph Infection Types for a list of other parts of the body that can be infected with staph.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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