Staph Skin Infections Pictures

Staph Skin Infection Pictures

Staph (pronounced staff) skin infection may appear as :

Drainage of pus from lesions is common.

What Causes Staph Skin Infections?

Staph infections are mainly caused by bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, and rarely by S. epidermidis, or S. saprophyticus. In staph carriers, S. aureus lives in the nose and on the skin, less commonly in the mouth, mammary glands, urinary, intestinal and upper respiratory tract (1). Staphylococcal infections usually remain localized at the site of entry. What is Staphylococcus aureus?

Who Is at Risk for Staph Infections?

People at greatest risk of contracting a staph infection are :

  • Staph carriers (many individuals who carry S. aureus in the nose, throat or skin; 20-30% of people are colonized persistently, especially health care workers, patients with diabetes and those on dialysis)
  • Newborn infants
  • Breastfeeding women
  • Obese persons
  • People living in crowded communities or hot climates
  • Those with skin injuries or surgical wounds
  • Persons with piercings and fresh tattoos
  • Persons with skin diseases, like atopic dermatitis or seborrhea
  • Persons with weak immune system, diabetes, cancer, vascular, blood or lung disease
  • Patients receiving oral steroids or chemotherapy

Are Staph Skin Infections Contagious?

Staph skin infections are fairly contagious. It can spread by :

  • Skin to skin contact with an infected person
  • Sharing razors, towels, clothes, bed linens, sport equipment (athletes!), toys
  • Walking barefoot or sitting around swimming pools
  • Contact with infected pets
  • Auto-infection by nose picking and skin scratching
  • Sneezing – when droplets from the nose of infected person (or staph carrier) fall on an injured skin of another person.

Read more on staph epidemiology.


Staphylococcal folliculitis affects hair follicles on the face, scalp, neck, trunk or limbs but not the hands, soles and mucous membranes where there are no hair follicles. Folliculitis usually appears as a group of red bumps, which may develop into pus-filled blisters (Picture 1). Itch or pain are main symptoms; follicles may open and drain pus. Low grade fever may be present. Folliculitis barbae is a folliculitis of the beard in men. A stye or hordeolum is folliculitis affecting one or more hair follicles on the edge of the upper or lower eyelid.

Staph skin infections-folliculitis

Picture 1. Folliculitis
(source: Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D., Atlasdermatologico)

More Folliculitis Pictures.

Boil – Skin Abscess

A boil or skin abscess is a collection of pus in the skin from various causes. Boils may appear as red colored nodules which are tender, itchy or painful. A boil often opens at some point of growth and drains pus.

A furuncle develops from an infected hair follicle, when the adjacent skin tissue is involved. It most commonly appears on the neck (Picture 2), arms or legs as a red nodule up to 1 cm in size, and usually after some time opens and drains pus. Furuncles may be itchy and painful and low grade fever may be present. It usually heals on its own. When several furuncles coalesce, it forms a carbuncle. Carbuncles most often appear on the nape of the neck in persons with lowered immunity, friction of clothes or bad hygiene (9).

Skin staph infections-furuncle

Picture 2. Furuncle on the neck
(source: Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D., Atlasdermatologico)

Cystic acne is a large collection lesions caused by oil and dead skin cells trapped in the sebaceous glands, mostly occurring on the face of teenagers.

Hidradenitis suppurativa are boils appearing in armpits, groin, anal area or under the breasts and inner thighs – areas which are often rubbed and are rich in the sweat and oil glands. The condition usually appears in puberty, it worsens with time and may persist for years. Sebaceous glands produce excessive oil due to increased hormonal activity. Sweat glands may be clogged due to excessive sweating and shed skin cells.

Hair follicles may then be infected by staphylococci. When all these disorders merge, it results in a group of tender red nodules, under-skin lumps filled with pus and black-heads. Hormone changes, stress, obesity and excessive sweating may aggravate symptoms. Antibiotics and isotretinoin may help in some cases, but surgical removal of nodules is often required (8).

A pilonidal cyst arises from irritated and infected hair follicles in the area between the buttocks, often due to prolonged sitting (during trips). Surgery is often required to remove the cyst completely.

Cellulitis – Deep Skin Infection

Cellulitis is an infection of the underlying skin tissue, appearing as a red, swollen, warm, tender skin patch of various size (Picture 3). An infection usually starts when Staphylococcus aureus (or group A streptococci, or rarely other bacteria) enter through the skin wound and spreads under the skin. The legs and arms are most commonly affected. Fever is usually present and the local lymph nodes may be swollen (2). Cellulitis always needs to be treated – oral antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Staph skin infections-cellulitis

Picture 3. Cellulitis on a shoulder in a child (source:

A superficial skin infection called erysipelas is usually caused by streptococci or, rarely, by staphylococci (2).


Impetigo is a crust-forming staph infection of the skin, mainly occurring in pre-school children. In adults it may follow other skin disorders like atopic dermatitis. It is highly contagious and easily spreads to other parts of the skin. Fever is not common, but the local lymph nodes may be affected. Infection usually heals on its own in 2-3 weeks (3). It most often occurs in summer and autumn.

Impetigo contagiosa starts like red bumps which rupture, ooze fluid or pus, and form honey colored crusts. It mostly appears around the child’s nose and mouth (Picture 4).

Skin staph infections -impetigo

Picture 4. Impetigo
(source: Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D., atlasdermatologico)

Bullous impetigo mostly appears in infants in the form of vesicles of various size on the trunk or limbs. Ecthyma is a severe form of impetigo with thick crusts. It affects deeper layers of the skin, it is painful, it may develop into an ulcer and leave scars.

Complications of impetigo are rare and include scars, permanent hypo- or hyper-pigmented skin patches and cellulitis.


Paronychia is an infection of the skin folds of the nails (Picture 5). Acute paronychia is usually caused by staphylococci, other bacteria or herpes virus; chronic paronychia is usually caused by fungi. It may follow nail biting, finger sucking, wearing artificial nails, ingrown toenail, or may appear in people who constantly have wet hands (like bartenders or dentists). It appears as a painful, red swelling around the nail or as red bumps or blisters.

The nail may change its color or become detached. Soaking an affected finger in warm water few times a day may help to relieve pain. Paronychia heals on its own; if not, a skin cut and pus drainage are needed. Sometimes a part of the nail has to be removed (4). Rarely, infection spreads toward the tendons and bones, or bacteria invade into the bloodstream.


Picture 5. Acute paronychia
source: Wikipedia

Wound Staph Infection

Staph is the most common external cause of wound infections. In surgical wounds, bacteria E.coli and enterococci are often involved.

Symptoms and Signs of Wound Infection

A wound infection may develop from 48 hours to 30 days after an injury or surgery.

Mild wound infection symptoms and signs may include (5):

  • Skin around the wound becomes increasingly red (cellulitis), swollen, warm and painful
  • Pus or cloudy fluid is draining from the wound
  • A crust may form on the wound edges, or an existing crust is increasing in size

Symptoms and signs of severe wound infection:

  • red streak (from inflamed lymphatic vessel) is spreading from the wound toward the local lymph nodes (usually in the armpits or groin), which may be swollen and tender.
  • Body temperature over 100°F (37.8°C).
  • Poor wound healing.
  • Foul odor from the wound.
  • A bluish or black gangrenous tissue around the wound.

Treatment of Infected Wounds

Open infected wounds should be cleaned with a suitable antimicrobial solution and preferably dressed by a medical professional. Oral antibiotics will usually be prescribed. With treatment, the symptoms should start to ease within 2 to 3 days, and completely resolve within 7 to 10 days. To relieve pain acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used, if temperature especially if the temperature exceeds 102F° (39°C).

Treatment of Infected Burns

In mild burns topical antibacterial ointments, like mupirocin, can be used to prevent infection. In severe burns, systemic antibiotics and surgical treatment are needed.

Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome (SSSS)

Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) is an extensive red rash, like scald, caused by toxins released by Staphylococcus aureus. It mostly appears in children under 5 years of age who do not have enough antibodies to fight staph toxins. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome in newborns is sometimes called pemphigus neonatorum. Connections between skin cells are cleaved by staph toxins, resulting in scalding.

A disease may start as a common staph skin infection, like impetigo, from which toxins are released. Fever, irritability and skin redness may follow in a couple of days, and then red blisters, paper-like skin wrinkling and scalding appear in one or more skin areas.

Diagnosis is by a skin biopsy. Treatment by intravenous and later by oral antibiotics usually results in complete healing in 5-7 days without consequences (7). The most dangerous complications are dehydration and sepsis. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome in adults with lowered immunity may be followed by life threatening pneumonia and sepsis.

Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is highly contagious and it often outbreaks as epidemic in kindergartens; in this case, children should stay at home.

Pictures of SSSS

Treatment of Staph Skin Infections

Mild staphylococcal folliculitis or furuncle may disappear in a few days or couple of weeks with good hygiene, showering and wearing fresh airy clothes.

In persistent skin infection, like carbuncles, oral antibiotics, like dicloxacillin or cephalosporin, are effective. If MRSA is diagnosed, clindamycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, levofloxacin, minocycline or linezolid may be used (2). Boils with an opening (cap) may need to be incised and drained of pus. The area is appropriately dressed. The dressing has to be changed and underlying skin cleaned every day until the boil heals completely. A large abscess may require a surgical drainage.

In infected wounds, stitches or foreign bodies have to be removed. Any dead tissue (necrotic) has to be surgically removed.

Extensive skin infections, like in staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS), require intravenous antibiotics. Antibiotics should be chosen on the basis of antibiotic susceptibility test.

Remedies in Staph Skin Infections

Topical antibacterial treatment. Fusidic acid (Fucidin®) and mupirocin (Bactroban®) are available as ointments. Triple-antibiotic (neomycin, polymyxin and bacitracin) mixtures can be found in pharmacies. Treatment should last up to 10 days, and administered 2 to 3 times a day. Longer use should be avoided to prevent bacterial resistance. Some ointments may  cause dry skin, burning or rash.

To prevent spread of an infection to other skin areas, antibacterial soaps, bath additives, and creams containing chlorhexidine, triclosan and povidone-iodine can be used.

To reduce itch, especially in children, emollients may be used.

To treat nasal staph carriage, nasal mupirocin ointment or oral rifampin may be used (4,2). Nasal swabs should be taken from the patient and his/her family members to identify staph carriers.

Laser hair removal helps in recurrent folliculitis.

How to Prevent Staph Skin Infections?

People prone to get recurrent staph skin infections should:

  • Regularly wash their hands, avoid nose picking, nails biting and skin scratching.
  • Use electric razor instead of blades or shave less frequently.
  • Wear fresh, comfortable, airy clothes.
  • Clean athletic equipment and seats beside pools before using.
  • Do not share razors, towels, clothes, bed lining with others.
  • Treat any underlying diseases, like diabetes or dermatitis.


  1. Staph carriers (
  2. Cellulitis and erysipelas (
  3. Impetigo (
  4. Paronychia (
  5. Wound infection (
  6. Infection of surgical wounds (
  7. SSSS (
  8. Hydradenitis suppurativa (
  9. Carbuncle (
About Jan Modric (249 Articles)
Health writer

Please note that any information or feedback on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a health care professional and will not constitute a medical diagnosis. By using this website and the comment service you agree to abide by the comment terms and conditions as outlined on this page

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  • Denise

    I have been seen & treated for cellulits/abcess in my private area twice, and changed my antibiotic, lansed but nothing drained out so they were unable to culture it. the area has reduced in size/a7 discomfort , but thearea is real hard like a ver hard substance. I am suppose to see a surgent incase it was deeper then what the reg Dr. thought. should I still since has reduced swelling?

  • Hi Denise. Yes, definitely see the surgeon. It needs to be assessed further. While a lump could be a lymph node, a patch may be fibrotic scarring that arises with prolonged and severe inflammation. It’s better to get a second opinion and an all clear from the surgeon rather than leaving it till later when complications may arise.

  • Denise

    Thank you for your advice. i called the surgeon and I have an appt. w/ him on Monday. I am nervous , but know it needs to be addressed


  • Yes it does Denise. You are welcome. Everything of the best.

  • bel

    my husband had surgery for cancer nearly 2 years ago he has been having chemo and tablets which has shrunk the cancer he has been left with a hospital infection which has been tested he has been on antibiotic tablets for two years the dr says it wont heal while on chemo and he cant go of the chemo because it will come back need some thing that we can put on the skin when it flares up please help ???????/

  • Hi Bel. This is a difficult situation because the chemo increases the risk of infections and hampers healing as his doctor said. Even though antibiotics may limit an infection and even clear it up, it is still the body’s own resources that are need to heal the area. Since he is a cancer patient it is advisable that you proceed with caution. Rather direct your concerns towards his oncologist. A topical antimicrobial application like an ointment may help as well but don’t start anything without his doctor’s instructions and approval.

  • Rose

    is it possible to get staph on your face that would almost look like horrible acne? I have had staph before and wonder if this is another form

  • mandy

    hi for a few months i had redspots on both inner thighs bit like a cluster, what do think i should do and have all over body itching which affects sleep pattern for a few weeks

  • Hi Rose. Yes it is possible. Or you may have acne with a superimposed staph infection. However, there is no reason to immediately assume that the current lesions on your face is definitely a staph infection. Rather consult with a dermatologist for a definitive diagnosis.

  • HI Mandy. There is a wide range of causes that can cause generalized itching which is known as pruritus. It may not necessarily be a staph infection. It could be an allergy, a viral infection or even a symptom of liver and kidney diseases. It is difficult to say for sure. Sometimes it is as simple as very dry skin. Red spots can occur with many different skin diseases so it is difficult to say for sure. You should consult with a dermatologist.

  • enr

    Staph infection healing process I’ve read I can use neosporin, when though I’m at the stage where there’s no pus… The crusty stage now

  • Hi Enr. We had to delete your photo because it is shows your face and we cannot be sure if that really is your photo. You should be consulting with a doctor, if you have not done so already. And you should be using either oral antibiotics or topical antimicrobials as your doctor prescribes. In your deleted question you had mentioned that you are applying apple cider vinegar on the area. This is not advisable. Rather use a topical antimicrobial like an ointment. From what you have said thus far, it does sound like it is healing but there is no way for us to say for sure. Staph bacteria can be very resilient and without using tried and tested topical antimicrobials, the bacteria can persist and the infection may recur. Speak to your doctor about your concerns.

  • Sarah

    I have scabs from acne that are healing over, Im on Accutane, and my dermatologist decided to take a culture of an especially dry, scabbed area of my lips, and it came back that I have MRSA. However, the scab on my lip is not hurting, swollen, really red, full of pus or any of the other symptoms of MRSA. Why do I not have any symptoms? And how likely is it going to get somewhere where it can do damage? How long does it take for it to do damage? I’m scared. I’m only 16 and I don’t want to die.

  • Sarah

    I have scabs from acne that are healing over, Im on Accutane, and my dermatologist decided to take a culture of an especially dry, scabbed area of my lips, and it came back that I have MRSA. However, the scab on my lip is not hurting, swollen, really red, full of pus or any of the other symptoms of MRSA. Why do I not have any symptoms? And how likely is it going to get somewhere where it can do damage? How long does it take for it to do damage? I’m scared. I’m only 16 and I don’t want to die.

  • Sarah

    Im on Accutane, and my dermatologist decided to take a culture of an especially dry, scabbed area of my lips, and it came back that I have MRSA. However, the scab on my lip is not hurting, swollen, really red, full of pus or any of the other symptoms of MRSA. Why do I not have any symptoms? And how likely is it going to get somewhere where it can do damage? How long does it take for it to do damage? I’m scared. I’m only 16 and I don’t want to die.

  • Hi Sarah. It is understandable that you are scared but you should be discussing these concerns with your dermatologist who has a better knowledge of your case. It is important to understand that bacteria do naturally occur on the skin even some highly pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. However, it often does not cause a problem if there is no break in the skin. Furthermore a healthy immune system can keep it at bay. It is only when these bacteria enter your body is very large doses (infectious doses), is able to thrive on broken skin or when your immune system is depressed that it may cause a disease. So this may be the reason why you do not have any symptoms. Your doctor is in the best position to advise you further.

  • Hi Sarah. We have already answered your question a few days ago. It seems to be pretty much the same question. Please refer to our answer below. Hopefully you have spoken to your dermatologist again.

  • Fizzaz

    I have these itchy, sometimes painful lumps on my inner thighs. Some of them are bigger than others but most are small and it looks like blackheads aswell. My skin is dark around that area, I think it’s slowly spreading.
    Are you able to tell me what it maybe?
    I’m unemployed so I can not go to the Dr right now.

    Thanx in advance

  • Momma

    Hi I had a small pus filled blister form on the knuckle of my index finger of left hand. My hand got a red itchy patch on the top and then went away now the back of my hand is mostly swollen as with my index finger. At the same time that the red itchy patch on the back of my hand showed up, the muscle in my arm just above my wrist also got a red itchy patch but this was more spotted and had disappeared at the same time as the back of my hand then re appeared as a more uniform patch swollen and red and not itchy.. now it has two broken lines that partially go around my arm and end in the crease fold of my arm opposite the elbow… What should I do.. I’ve had this before, usually multiple little white blisters very tiny and either my hand swells or the muscle on arm gets red and swollen but this usually goes away very quicky.. this time there was only one and it was pus filled not clear liquid like before.

  • Hi Momma. The question here is whether this is a skin infection or not. There are several skin conditions that can cause tiny blisters and it may not be an infection. For example pompholyx is a skin condition that can cause tiny blisters on the fingers that comes and goes. You should consult with your family doctor and preferably see a dermatologist at this point since the condition is recurring. The condition needs to first be conclusively diagnosed before treatment can be commenced.

  • Alexis

    I’ve had staph about three times in the past eight months due to my living conditions in my college dorms. The second and third time, both infections were in my legs and left really dark bruises afterwards. Do you have any tips on how to get rid of these? They look pretty bad.

  • Michelle

    I’ve had small bumps in my nose that would come and go and then I got one that sent me to er my nose was twice the size it always is and so much pain I have ms can anyone tell me how not to get these

  • Hi Michelle. Has the cause been identified by a doctor? Is it inflammation or a nasal polyp? These are some of the questions that need to be answered. If you have not done so as yet, then you should consult with an ENT specialist (otorhinolaryngologist).

  • Michelle

    I was told it was staff I have ms so my immune system is not right

  • patricia mathews

    I have cellutis and o was wondering if it was safe to mash the spot I’ve been put on antibiotics today but I’d like to mash the stuff out

  • ScooterMama

    Hey, I know this has been a while, but did you ever find ANY true
    cure for this scalp issue. I have it as well and as a staph carrier
    it is a constant battle. Please reply if you get this. I would love
    to know how things are going for you. ScooterMama