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Will I die of possible staph?
February 12, 2014 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I have what looks like a staph infection. I've had it for 5 days, and it has been getting better. My temperature is normal. I'm healthy and in my 20s. Normally, I'd just go to the doctor, but I'm locked in by weather. All urgent care clinics and doctors offices are closed due to ice on the road. Do I need to go to the ER via ambulance?

I only ask because taxi companies are closed, I can't drive on the ice, and only an ambulance would be able to come and pick me up. It would be very expensive, and my insurance only covers ER if it's a deadly emergency. It would only be covered if I had MRSA and would die otherwise; else, I would have to cover the expected $2500+ bill myself (my last ambulance ride in favorable conditions was around $1500, and who knows how much more it would be in this weather). My friend died of MRSA in her 20s, so I know it's serious--but HOW serious? My infection has been healing and I don't have any warning signs. The weeping from the wound has been diminishing, and the red infection around it is smaller and less red than it was yesterday and the day before. I'm not trying to gamble with my health, but the hospital bill would be a very serious cost to me (student). I don't know if it's MRSA and I don't even know if it's staph--it looks like the pictures on the Internet, but I haven't been diagnosed.
posted by semaphore to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
What makes you want to go to the ER today, vs a couple of days ago when it was worse? Is there something now that makes you say "Gee, I need to go to the ER..."? Something new?
posted by anastasiav at 11:19 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Why not ask a nurse?
posted by Gungho at 11:22 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


IANAD but...

It's healing, you aren't running a fever, and you're healthy and feel healthy? I see absolutely no reason to go to the ER, especially if doing so will require an ambulance ride. Unless there are more symptoms/factors that you haven't mentioned, I highly doubt this is something to trouble yourself over.

That said, if you are exceptionally worried and/or you've left out symptoms or other details, Gungho's suggestion is spot on.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:27 AM on February 12


So you have, what -- a rash, blisters, crusting? -- and you have no idea if it's staph or whatever else it may be, but it's getting better and you have no fever?

People on the internet are going to be hesitant to say "No, don't seek the only form of healthcare currently accessible to you" but unless there's something you are not telling us, I personally wouldn't even consider calling an ambulance.

You saying it "looks like staph" is also a little odd, as staph presents in a very wide variety, and can itself look like chicken pox, diaper rash, ringworm, nothing at all, etc. Can you post a photo to Imgur or whatever?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:29 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


IANAD, but I believe the usual method for determining if an infection warrants an ER trip is to draw a line in pen around the red area surrounding a wound. If the area is increasing noticeably within a few hours, the infection is spreading rapidly and you need to go to the ER.

If I were you and the red area was decreasing in size, I'd just keep an eye on it to make sure that continues.
posted by zug at 11:30 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Also, this presumes you have a break in the skin of some sort. You might want to mention what your symptoms actually are.
posted by zug at 11:30 AM on February 12


Most insurance companies in the US have an Ask A Nurse line that you can call. I'd give them a call. (Also, depending on who your Primary Care folks are, there may be people you can call at that office. Calling the ER is out, though, since they generally aren't allowed to give medical advice over the phone.)

If you've had the same infection for five days, why is it suddenly a concern now? Has anything changed to make you concerned about it?
posted by pie ninja at 11:36 AM on February 12


I've had it for 5 days, and it has been getting better.

My temperature is normal.

My infection has been healing and I don't have any warning signs.

The weeping from the wound has been diminishing, and the red infection around it is smaller and less red than it was yesterday and the day before.

I don't know if it's MRSA and I don't even know if it's staph--it looks like the pictures on the Internet, but I haven't been diagnosed.

So, you have an infection of some kind (from a cut?), but you don't know if it's staph, much less MRSA; it's been getting continuously better, and you have no symptoms.

It sounds like you have nothing to worry about! Get plenty of rest and try not to fret over it. However, if it starts to get worse, or you start to have a fever or other systemic symptoms, call an ambulance. But unless that happens, it sounds like there's no objective cause for concern. If you want, use Gungho's link to get some professional perspective.

My friend died of MRSA in her 20s, so I know it's serious

That is truly tragic and you have my sympathies. It's understandable that someone who had witnessed a friend suffer and die from a somewhat/superficially similar issue would be a bit freaked out, but it sounds like you are alright. Just keep an eye on it.
posted by clockzero at 11:36 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Every "Ask A Nurse" line I've ever called has always told me to go to the ER or the urgent care, regardless of my actual symptoms. They have never told me "keep an eye on it". I think there's liability concerns if they tell you not to seek immediate treatment. I actually stopped calling them after a few rounds of being advised to seek expensive emergency care for conditions that were manifestly, obviously not emergencies. I don't think they are actually allowed to dispense medical advice of the "take an aspirin and call the doctor tomorrow" kind. So my point is, the nurse line may tell you to go to the ER and the ER may still be a bad idea.

IANAD, but I am a huge hypochondriac. Here is what I would do, as a hypochondriac: I would outline the red area and do a baseline "what condition is it in" check, maybe making notes. I would take a baseline temperature. Because you are a hypochondriac, check on all this every couple of hours. If you don't spike a fever (remembering that minor temperature fluctuations are normal) and there are no other symptoms or changes in the wound, don't go to the ER. Remember that you can go to the ER at any time.

I have had lots of anxiety over minor non-MRSA infections that may have been staph. They resolved themselves over time. I kept them clean and covered and checked on them way too much because I am a hypochondriac.
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


If it's healing and getting smaller, you are likely going to be just fine. Some staph infections are deadly, but many are minor and resolve on their own. Keep an eye on it for now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:44 AM on February 12


(What I mean about "because you are a hypochondriac" is that often it's easier to say "I am going to check on this too often but at regular intervals rather than every ten minutes" than to try to maintain a non-panicky approach.)
posted by Frowner at 11:45 AM on February 12


Thanks, y'all. I finally got through to a nurse and she told me that it sounded like it was healing and I didn't need to come in unless it got worse. She also told me that I shouldn't go on antibiotics unless I absolutely needed to. It was very balanced advice and I'm glad I called. I didn't even realize that resource was available! :)

(I'm actually the opposite of a hypochondriac; I've always been the type to favor the "don't worry about it unless you're running a 101+ high fever, a dog bit you, you're hallucinating, or you're coughing up blood" seriousness and "let food & exercise & yoga & sunscreen & therapeutic massage be thy medicine and go for regular checkups" preventative approaches...but since my childhood friend recently died of a similar minor infection, I felt nervous.)
posted by semaphore at 11:55 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


(Gross warning). If you're still getting pus out of it (do not try to drain it! Just, noticeable pus) I would see a doctor once the roads are clear. I've had staph infections (and MRSA) before and the #1 way my doctor told me to check whether a developing spot was staph or something non-dangerous was the amount and color of pus. (Yellowish white & a lot of it). Here ends the gross.
posted by blue_and_bronze at 5:56 PM on February 12


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