Is this staph that I'm feelin'?
August 3, 2013 4:09 PM   Subscribe

YANMD, but I'm trying to determine if I have a staph infection, or just a nasty bite. I've got a swollen, pinkish area on the back of my knee which has a tiny black scabby area in the center.

About four days ago, I noticed a very small bump on the back of my knee. It itched, I scratched it a little, and I went about my way. I assumed it to be a mosquito bite since there are loads of them around right now.

It now looks to be something a bit more gross.

About half of the back of my knee is now swollen, pinkish, itchy and festooned with a lovely black scabby area in the center of the swelling. The entire area is maybe the size of a fifty-cent piece.

A similar thing happened to me in 2010, and I treated it by swabbing the area with alcohol, using a compress, and taking Benadryl (I assumed it to be a bug or spider bite gone bad). It cleared up after three weeks or so, and mainly just itched to the point of driving me mad.

I can sometimes get a little hypochondriac-y, and sometimes turns out to be now. I managed to finally convince myself that this is not gangrene or a venous ulcer, but in the process of looking at symptoms came across staph infection as a possibility.

For those that have had staph, or close to someone who has, I ask:

Does it typically itch?
How quickly does it spread?
If it hasn't spread over the course of the past few days, is it likely to be easily home treated?
posted by nohaybanda to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I had a mosquito bite that turned infected after a few days and required two rounds of antibiotics to cure. It doesn't really mean anything that it's been stable up until this point. Draw a circle around the bite right now and if it grows noticeably over the next day or so, go to Urgent Care. You don't want to mess around with this stuff.
posted by something something at 4:14 PM on August 3, 2013

Does it look anything like a Lyme disease rash?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't fuck around with the Dr. Internet on this. Get it looked at right now. If it is nothing maybe you feel a bit foolish and are out a few dollars. If you are right you will have saved your leg and/or your life.
posted by srboisvert at 5:06 PM on August 3, 2013

If you have a VERY good reason not to go to the doctor immediately, like lack of insurance or difficulty finding a place that's open on Saturday, you can instead draw around the pinkish area with a Sharpie marker and check periodically if the swelling has advanced outside the line. The rule of thumb is "bad things get worse" -- the faster it gets worse, the worse it is. If it's still around on Monday in any form, though, you should definitely get someone to take a look at it. And of course if it's changing rapidly, forming streaks, or if you start getting fever, weakness, chills, all those other "crap I'm sick" signs, then you need to get to a doctor soonest, like Urgent Care or ED soonest.
posted by KathrynT at 5:30 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have had the following: a staph infection, a mosquito bite that got crazy big and may or may not have been infected, and a mosquito bite that got sort of crazy big but receded on its own.

With the first, it was obvious that something was real bad wrong: my entire foot puffed up and was red and hot and and painful and sort of squishy to the touch. With the second, the red area around the bite grew to cover half my forearm, but wasn't puffy or painful. I went to my doctor, who said "It could be either an infection or an allergy, so we'll give you some antibiotics to be on the safe side." With the third, the red area got to about three inches across and itched, but again wasn't painful. I took a picture of it and kept an eye on it for a day. It shrank, but if it had stayed the same or gotten bigger I would have called the doctor.

So, whatever it is, I recommend going to the doctor (most likely urgent care since it's the weekend), unless you can't afford it. Even if it's nothing, at least you'll know.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:34 PM on August 3, 2013

Go get checked. I have a family member that had something similar last week-just "a bug bite" and this Monday she is having it surgically cleaned out. Why risk a problem?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:40 PM on August 3, 2013

I had something similar (it started on the inner area of both knees, I assumed I'd been bitten by a critter) and it ended up covering almost both of my legs from ankles to hip, and it was a swollen, scabby, ITCHY mess for weeks. I got a bad diagnosis at first (dr thought it was staph, actually) and in the time it took me to see a dermatologist and actually get a good diagnosis, it progressed a ton. I ended up taking both oral and topical steroids and it still took ages to go away--and about 6 months for the discoloration to totally fade. My limited understanding is that staph infections will actually hurt, whereas mine just itched--but it was still horrible to deal with and I would really recommend being proactive and seeing someone, preferably a derm rather than a GP.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 7:46 PM on August 3, 2013

Staph will not go away and will spread. It will progress to the point where you will wonder why you delayed. Spend the $, go to an urgent care place, and get it checked out, unless you want the festering boil from hell and want to be howling in pain a week from now. What costs more - a week off work or a medical bill of around $100? Been there, don't wish to do it again.
posted by brownrd at 8:20 PM on August 3, 2013

My staph was more itchy than painful and spread slowly, meaning it progressed from one lesion at a time to to four at a time in about a month. It did not go away with home treatment (hot compresses, Neosporin, various immune-boosting supplements). I wish I'd known from the start what it was so I could have zapped it with something effective before it established itself. I recommend getting a doctor to culture it.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:17 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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