There are eight other plagues I would prefer before boils.
December 29, 2010 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to help stop recurrences of MRSA infections? You are not my doctor, and a few unpleasant details inside.

I'm on what is likely my second MRSA infection this year. It is probably the community acquired variant. Last time it was killed off by Bactrim. First infection was a groin abscess which was entirely painful, was drained and had to be repacked six times. This time, I have what is likely a small abscess on my lip. It's swollen to all hell and has been draining pus. This started by a zit in the corner of my mouth that wouldn't heal due to it being at the corner of my mouth. That small opening led to staph getting in there, within two days my lips has doubled in size.

I have already been to a doctor in the last 24 hours, cultures were taken, and I am back on Bactrim, mupirocin oinment and ibuprofen. My doctor didn't have a whole lot to say on preventing more abscesses or skin infections from happening again. For my special snowflake case, let's assume I am a 27 year old male, on the edge of obese, with no other ongoing illness, and not on any regular medication.

My question for those who have had MRSA in the past: What did you do to stop getting recurrent infections? Hygiene changes, medication, weight loss, human/animal sacrifice? This being the second one of these I've dealt with this year, I would like to go through 2011 with exactly zero more. MRSAfites: what did you do to make sure you didn't get the next infection?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked into maggot therapy?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 AM on December 29, 2010

First, you may be a carrier of MRSA. Here is a link that discusses being a carrier. It also talks about what you should do to clean your home, etc..

When you get your culture results, talk with your doctor. Also, if he/she hasn't referred to an Infection Disease specialist, ask for a referral.
posted by 6:1 at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2010

Weight loss isn't going to keep you from getting infections on your lip or hand or knee or whatever, though it might help reduce infections in skin folds. So don't think of that as a panacea by any means, even though doctors often suggest it as one! Going on any crash diet is going to stress your immune system, so if you do choose weight loss efforts as part of your approach to preventing further infections, be sure you do it through sustainable changes in your eating and exercise patterns.

Seconding the "ask for a referral to an infectious disease specialist." A functional medicine doc might also be able to recommend strategies for improving your immune response overall.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2010

Also, was that actually a zit or was it a herpes sore? Because if you do have herpes, your doc might recommend your taking an anti-viral to reduce outbreaks that might be prone to subsequent infections.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:59 AM on December 29, 2010

Have you considered switching to a doctor who specializes in these cases?
posted by schmod at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2010

Some things that helped me after I got a community acquired MRSA about 2 years ago that came back three times:

It doesn't sound very green, but don't reuse the same towel after a shower. I use it once and then wash it, also be very careful not to dry your private areas and then dry your other areas. I washed all sheets and clothing and dried them in a hot drier to kill bacteria.

Right after I had the infection, I found some information about Turmeric and took that in capsule form for around 2 months afterward, I don't know if it helped or not but it hasn't come back since then. You can google around and see the antibacterial properties of turmeric. It is also a mild blood thinner so be aware of that, check with Dr etc.

I bought some hibiclens and used that instead of shower gel for around a month after the infection just to help kill anything as well.

Of course wash your hands a LOT!
posted by heatherly at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

The most important thing I have learned is to never ever touch an incipient infection without soap or gauze being involved. Ever. This is just about impossible on the face, but I've had years to test this and it appears to be true. Not a poke, not a prod. For my face, I keep a stack of thin crappy white washcloths for washing and drying, single use and then bleach.

I use Drawing Salve (aka Drawing Out Salve, Boil Salve - the pertinent ingredient is ichthammol as high up the ingredient list as you can find), which I can still sometimes find at CVS. It doesn't have any *caines in it, it just prompts the thing to come to a head and drain before it swells up too bad. It is a greasy black ointment that smells like diesel, but it reduces pain almost instantly and usually provokes some drainage after a couple of hours. Doctors have always been "well, whatever" about this stuff, but it's headed off what I could tell wanted to be a serious situation more times than I can count.

But rule number one is no fingers.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had kind of a similar situation to yours - repeated bouts of cellulitis. As others have said, be scrupulous about hygiene and laundry. One thing I do is to make sure I always have mupirocin on hand and that I treat any cut, skin break or suspicious pimple with it right away for several days or until it is healing well with no redness. With areas where it is hard to keep the ointment on, like your mouth zit, I put some mupirocin on right before bed and cover with a bandaid and keep that on over night.

However, I also agree with others that you may want to check out your general health/immune system. If you have not had a full physical, including bloodwork, in a while, now would be the time to get everything checked out.

In my particular case it turns out (after a lot of tests and trying to figure things out by my persistent doctor) that I have a borderline low thyroid problem. Once I started on a low dose of thyroid medication (note that I am also consistently using mupirocin on any skin breaks), my overall health improved and I have not had cellulitis since.
posted by gudrun at 12:47 PM on December 29, 2010

It doesn't sound very green, but don't reuse the same towel after a shower.

Being watchful of your health is going to be more "green" in the long run than getting sick and going to the hospital. Hospital stays consume way more energy and resources than washing a few extra towels each week.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

What a bummer- I had ca-MRSA infections repeatedly in 2007, and, wow, they HURT. So, my sympathies.

The link about being a carrier is a good one. I had infections on my knees and ankles, and got pretty stressed about it, but didn't really start to worry until I spread it into my eyes and I wound up with two corneal ulcers, back-to-back. Those could have blinded me.

Eventually I saw a pediatric dermatologist (I was 20, but he was a family acquaintance who agreed to a favor), who recommended that I take baths in bleach. Not in pure bleach- just warm water with a few capfuls of bleach added.

He also instructed me to put the mupirocin ointment inside of my nose (typically staph carriers have a high load inside of their noses), and wrote me an open-ended perscription of my preferred antibiotic, so that I could fill it as soon as I saw the signs of a new infection, and wouldn't have to wait days for an appointment at campus health.

The infections stopped. I took bleach baths for a few months after, just be sure, and then eventually stopped. Hard to say what exactly did the trick, but I am very thankful.
posted by heyheylanagirl at 1:18 PM on December 29, 2010

This is a little tangential, but maybe worth pursuing: Since you mentioned you're "on the edge of obese," have you been tested for Type II diabetes? Uncontrolled diabetes can be a factor in making your body more susceptible to infection.
posted by amyms at 1:35 PM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since you mentioned you're "on the edge of obese," have you been tested for Type II diabetes?

Anybody with frequent skin infections should be tested for diabetes, regardless of their weight range; sometimes the weight gain is the last symptom to show up. Good point, amyms!

And while you're at the doctor's getting bloodwork, definitely get the thyroid testing as well, because infections and weight gain are also very frequent symptoms of that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:13 PM on December 29, 2010

Having survived 4 painful MRSAs myself (two on my face, one in my groin and one behind my ear that caused me to collapse and puke repeatedly from vertigo), dude, I FEEL YOU. Pain, nausea and fear are powerful deterrents - but you've gotta go scorched earth for these kinds of infections to disappear entirely, as they live in everyone's nasal passages (and you could very well be a carrier - I was).

The only thing that stopped my recurrences:

1. I was tested in a hospital to see what the staph was resistant to. It required culturing the pus and about 10 days to get the results. You should get back a list of all antibiotics your body is resistant to; keep it and get a two-week prescription for the most effective med on that list and TAKE IT ALL.

2. Hibiclens - bathe your entire body in it, stem to stern, for two weeks.

3. You're going to need to swab the inside of your nose with Bactroban, which also requires a prescription.

If the Dr. you're seeing doesn't know/understand any of points 1-3 above, ask him to recommend a specialist or visit a hospital. Seriously, it's worth it and the people at Primacare were of no help to me the first couple of infections I had (and hearing them argue about who had to lacerate my face for almost an hour in the hallway made me feel like a dog being put down at the pound).

From here on out, I suggest you avoid places like hospitals, gyms (if you can) and NEVER PICK AT ANYTHING PAINFUL ON YOUR SKIN THAT'S THERE FOR MORE THAN A COUPLE DAYS. EVER. Instead, if you touch it and it hurts, or feels "hot" (I call it "that sick, infecty feeling") go IMMEDIATELY and have a dr/derm culture it. Otherwise, you're going to be tempted to pick at it and it could get ugly.

After quitting my gym membership and applying 3-4 kinds of medication on every inch of my body, using towels/sheets one time only and swallowing two rounds of Cipro, I've never had a recurrence. Though, I was getting one every 9 months or so... for four years.

You decide what's best for you, but I know people who have had limbs amputated and/or died from MRSA and I personally never want to drain an open wound less than an inch from my eyeball again. You?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:53 PM on December 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

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