Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 7: Infectious Diseases

7.5 Skin and Mucous Membrane Infections

7.5.10 Staphylococcus Aureus Skin Infections Including MRSA Staphylococcus Aureus Skin Infections Including MRSA

The following should be implemented when children or staff with lesions suspicious for Staphylococcus aureus infections are identified:

  1. Lesions should be covered with a dressing;
  2. Report the lesions to the parent/guardian with a recommendation for evaluation by a primary care provider; and
  3. Exclusion is not warranted unless the individual meets any of the following criteria:
    1. Care for other children would be compromised by care required for the person with the S. aureus infection;
    2. The individual with the S. aureus infection has fever or a change in behavior;
    3. The lesion(s) cannot be adequately covered by a bandage or the bandage needs frequent changing; and
    4. A health care professional or health department official recommends exclusion of the person with S. aureus infection (1).

Meticulous hand hygiene following contact with lesions should be practiced (1). Careful hand hygiene and sanitization of surfaces and objects potentially exposed to infectious material are the best ways to prevent spread. Children and staff in close contact with an infected person should be observed for symptoms of S. aureus infection and referred for evaluation, if indicated.

A child may return to group child care when staff members are able to care for the child without compromising their ability to care for others, the child is able to participate in activities, appropriate therapy is being given, and the lesions can be covered (1).

S. aureus skin infections initially may appear as red raised areas that may become pus-filled abscesses or “boils,” surrounded by areas of redness and tenderness. Fever and other symptoms including decreased activity, bone and joint pain, and difficulty breathing may occur when the infection occurs in other body systems. If any of these signs or
symptoms occur, the child should be evaluated by his/her primary care provider.

S. aureus (also known as “Staph”) is a bacterium that commonly causes superficial skin infections (cellulitis and abscesses). It also may cause muscle, bone, lung, and blood (invasive) infections. One type of S. aureus, called methicillin-resistant S. aureus or “MRSA,” is resistant to one or more classes of antibiotics. S. aureus and MRSA have been the source of attention due to increasing rates of infections from these bacteria associated with health care associated (HCA) infections and in healthy children and adults in the community. Transmissibility and infectivity is comparable to infections with S. aureus without methicillin resistance. Therefore signs and symptoms, incubation and contagion periods, control of spread, and exclusion guidelines are identical for all S. aureus infections, including infections with methicillin resistance or MRSA (1,2).

Most people with skin infections due to S. aureus do not develop invasive infections; they may experience recurrent skin infections. Infants and children who are diapered and pre-adolescents and adolescents who participate in team sports may have an increased risk for developing S. aureus skin infections. This is likely due to frequent breaks of skin and the sharing of towels. The incubation period for S. aureus skin infections is unknown. Some people may carry MRSA without having symptoms of active infection. These people are considered to be “colonized” with S. aureus; however, they are not considered to be infectious when they do not have active infection.

S. aureus skin infections may occur at sites of skin trauma. Pus and other material draining from skin lesions should be considered to be infectious. Treatment of S. aureus skin infections may be accomplished with an oral or an intravenous antibiotic or a combination of both. In some cases, incision and drainage of the lesion(s) alone may be required. In other instances, incision and drainage of smaller lesions with the use of a topical antibiotic may result in a cure. Skin lesions are considered to be infectious until they have healed; therefore, they should be kept covered and dry. Frequent hand hygiene to prevent spread of S. aureus should be practiced at home and in child care (1). Evaluation by a primary care provider in people with severe or prolonged symptoms may be indicated.

S. aureus skin infections are common, especially among infants wearing diapers and adolescent members of sports teams. Infections may be more common among children where other family members have or have had skin lesions and during the warmer months when skin exposure to trauma may be increased. Shedding of bacteria from skin lesions may occur until the lesion has healed. Occasionally S. aureus infections may occur in several children at the same time or within a few of days of each other. Consultation with a health care professional and the local health department may be sought when several people have these symptoms.

For additional information for parents/guardians and caregivers/teachers, refer to information posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Inclusion/Exclusion/Dismissal of Ill Children
Appendix A: Signs and Symptoms Chart
  1. Aronson, S. S., T. R. Shope, eds. 2017. Managing infectious diseases in child care and schools: A quick reference guide, pp. 43-48. 4th Edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Staphylococcus Aureus In: Kimberlin DW, Brady MT, Jackson MA, Long SS, eds. Red Book: 2018 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 31st Edition. Itasca, IL:  American Academy of Pediatrics; 2018: 350, 477, 735, 746