Staph Infection Symptoms

Staph Infection Symptoms

Staph infection symptoms include various skin changes, symptoms of infected internal organs, and symptoms related to staph blood poisoning (sepsis).

What is Staph?

Staph infection is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (staph for short) and rarely by S. epidermidis or other staphylococcal species.

What is s Staph Infection?

A staph infection is an inflammation of the skin or internal organs, caused by the staph bacteria or its toxins. Staph infection may be mild, severe or even life threatening, and may appear as:

  • Skin infection
  • Infection of the mucous membranes (sinusitis, epiglottitis, vaginitis)
  • Infection of the glands (mastitis, parotitis)
  • Staph food poisoning
  • Urinary infection in men
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis) and joint infection (arthritis)
  • Staph pneumonia
  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • Staph meningitis
  • Bacteremia, sepsis
  • Soft tissue gangrene and gas gangrene
  • Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (SSSS)

Symptoms of Staph Skin Infection

Staph skin infection may appear as a:

  • red skin rash, pus-filled blisters or as folliculitis (refer to folliculitis pictures)
  • red bump or swelling on the eyelid (stye)
  • vesicles that burst and crust over (impetigo)
  • painful red swelling or vesicle around the nail (paronychia)
  • painful red nodules which may ooze pus (boils: furuncle, carbuncle)
  • swollen red skin patch, usually on the limbs (cellulitis)
  • skin scalding, mostly in young children (staphylococcal scalding skin syndrome)
  • infected acne, hydradenitis suppurativa or pilonidal cyst
  • infected wound, and related infection of lymphatic vessels (staphylococcal lymphangitis)

For a detailed description, read more on staph skin infections with pictures.

Symptoms of Staph Mastitis

Staph mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland mostly occurring in breastfeeding mothers within 6 weeks after childbirth or sometimes later(1). Symptoms of mastitis may include:

  • Red, warm, tender or painful swelling or a lump in the breast (usually only on one side)
  • Breast skin and nipple itch
  • Nipple discharge
  • Fever over 101°F (38.3°C), feeling ill
  • Tender or enlarged lymph nodes in related armpit

Symptoms of Bacterial Parotitis

Bacterial parotitis is an inflammation of the parotid gland (the salivary gland lying under the skin below the ear) caused by staph or other bacteria. It usually occurs in old, dehydrated patients or those who were intubated (2). Bacterial parotitis has to be distinguished from viral parotitis which mostly occurs in children. Both types are usually one-sided and are rare. Symptoms of bacterial parotitis usually include:

  • Painful swelling bellow the ear on one side
  • Painful mouth opening (trismus) and swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Thick discharge into the mouth
  • High fever with chills

Staph Food Poisoning Symptoms

When a person responsible for food preparation has staphylococci in the nasal cavity (staph carrier) or has staph skin infection, some bacteria may end up in the food. If such food is kept outside the refrigerator for few hours, bacteria may produce enough toxins to cause food poisoning.

Symptoms of staph food poisoning are:

  • Nausea and vomiting, appearing between 30 minutes and 8 hours after food ingestion
  • Rarely, diarrhea or fever, which follow the vomiting

The illness usually lasts for one to three days and resolves on its own without consequences.

Bacterial Sinusitis Symptoms

Bacterial sinusitis is an inflammation of the mucosa, which covers the inner surfaces of the bone cavities (sinuses) around the nose. It may be caused by staph or other bacteria.

Symptoms usually include :

  • Pain in cheeks, teeth, or forehead
  • Blocked nose, changed smell, sticky greenish nose discharge, bad breath and, rarely, fever
  • High fever, facial swelling, severe headache, neck stiffness and confusion in severe sinusitis.

Bacterial sinusitis usually lasts for more than 10 days, while viral sinusitis usually resolves in few days on its own.

Bacterial Epiglottitis Symptoms

An epiglottis is a cartilage on the base of the tongue, which prevents the entrance of food into the larynx during swallowing. Injury of epiglottis’s mucosa may be followed by severe, life threatening staph infection, characterized by:

  • Sudden severe pain in the throat
  • Painful swallowing
  • Excessive salivating
  • Difficult breathing, air hunger
  • High fever

Bacterial epiglottitis is rare, mostly seen in young children, rarely in adults (3).

Staph Vaginitis Symptoms

Symptoms of staph vaginitis may include:

  • Purulent discharge (blood may be present) with bad (fishy) odor
  • Pain during intercourse or urinating
  • Vaginal itch

Symptoms of Bacterial Urinary Infection in Men

Various staphylococci species and other bacteria may cause infection of urinary system in a male.

Common symptoms are:

  • Burning pain during urination, urinary frequency and urgency.

Symptoms of bacterial prostatitis:

  • Pain in the groin, testicles, penis or lower abdomen
  • Cloudy urine, rarely blood in the semen
  • Fever and muscular pain.

Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and infection of the bladder (cystitis) are characterized by:

  • Pain over the kidney(s), lower abdominal or lower back pain (in cystitis)
  • Cloudy urine
  • Fever with chills.

Urethritis, epididymitis, orchitis and urinary infections in women are only rarely caused by staphylococci (4).

Staph Bone Infection (Osteomyelitis) Symptoms

Staph bone infection (osteomyelitis) typically occurs in children and most commonly affect the lower end of the thigh bone, the upper end of the lower-leg bone (tibia), upper-arm (humerus) or fore-arm (radius) bone.

In staph osteomyelitis there are often no symptoms. When an infection was due to injury, a skin redness, swelling or ulcer may appear on the site of injury. Severe pain and fever are common and mobility of the limb is usually affected. Lymph nodes lying between a bone infection and the heart may be swollen (5). The ulcer may heal slowly and drain pus. Infection may spread into an adjacent joint.

When staphylococci reach the bones by blood (hematogenous spread), swelling, pain and redness may appear on the skin above the affected bone (including the spinal vertebra or pelvis – in older patients)

Staph joint infection (arthritis) may arise from an infection of an adjacent bone, a direct puncture of the joint (usually knee in children) or from spread of staphylococci by blood .

Symptoms of staph arthritis include:

  • Infected joint is swollen, red, warm and extremely tender (6)
  • Fever

Symptoms of Life Threatening Staph Infections

Staph Pneumonia Symptoms

Staphylococcal pneumonia typically occurs in hospitalized patients (hospital acquired pneumonia) with an underlying lung disease, intravenous drug addicts and persons with indwelling prosthetic devices (7). Symptoms do not differ from pneumonia caused by other bacteria and usually include :

  • High fever and chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cough
  • Cyanosis – bluish skin

Bacterial (Staph) Endocarditis Symptoms

Staph endocarditis usually results from the spread of Staphylococcus aureus from the skin in intravenous drug users, or in children with inborn heart disease, prosthetic valves, or after inserting venous catheters or surgery. Symptoms of bacterial endocarditis are not specific and may include :

  • Fever, rarely exceeding 39°C
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue, night sweating, joint/muscular pain
  • Splinter hemorrhage under the nails, red skin spots on the palms and soles (Janeway lesions), red, painful nodes on the fingers and toes (Osler’s nodes), tiny mucosal bleeding (petechia) in eye conjunctiva (8)
  • Heart murmurs may be sometimes detected by a stethoscope (8)

Complications of bacterial endocarditis may include :

  • Acute heart failure – breathlessness, leg and belly swelling, enlarged liver and spleen may appear
  • Stroke – muscular activity and sensations may be affected

Staph Meningitis Symptoms

Staphylococcal meningitis may occur in patients after brain surgery or severe skin infections.

Symptoms are like in meningitis caused by other bacteria:

  • Low grade fever
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion

Signs of meningeal irritation like neck stiffness are usually not present (9).

Bacteremia, Septicemia

Bacteremia is the presence of bacteria in the blood. Bacteria may enter the blood from the site of infection, like pneumonia or meningitis, during inserting vascular catheters, drug administration, surgery, tooth extraction, and so on. Temporary bacteremia may following brushing teeth vigorously or entery of bacteria from the intestine, and it is not dangerous, since bacteria are quickly destroyed when they pass the liver (11). Symptoms of bacteremia include :

  • Fever or middle ear infection (in children), but no other symptoms (10).

Tooth extraction in a patient who has staphylococci in mouth and has congenital heart disorder or prosthetic heart valves may lead to bacterial (staph) endocarditis.

Sepsis (inflammation of the blood) is bacteremia with symptoms (13). Staph sepsis is usually triggered by staph bacteria entering the blood  from an existing infection, like infected skin burns. Sepsis may be a life threatening condition. Symptoms of staph sepsis (11,12,13) are:

  • Sudden high fever with or without chills or  hypothermia in a patient with existing staph infection
  • An affected person looks seriously ill, feels weak, and may have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Rapid heart beat and rapid breathing
  • Symptoms arising from affected organs (osteomyelitis, arthritis, meningitis, endocarditis, pericarditis, and so on)

Septicemia may lead to shock with altered consciousness, hypothermia, red spots on the skin (from bloody clothing), shallow breathing and decreased urination.

Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections

Necrotizing soft tissue infection (necrotizing fasciitis, soft tissue gangrene) is a rare, severe bacterial infection, caused by staphylococci, streptococci or other bacteria, which can destroy the muscles, skin, and underlying tissue (14).

A small red spot or bump may appear on the skin and changes into a painful brownish, purple and finally black patch, which may ulcerate and drain fluid or pus, may develop. The wound may develop in less than an hour. General symptoms may resemble sepsis. Without treatment, death may follow quickly.

Gas Gangrene

Gas gangrene may develop in a wound infected with S. aureus or Clostridium perfringens bacteria, often in persons with atherosclerosis or diabetes. Gas gangrene differs from the above mentioned soft tissue gangrene by the following symptoms:

  • Gas may be felt around the wound edges
  • Brownish-red skin patch or blisters may appear around the wound
  • Moderate pain and moderate fever develop

Toxic Shock Syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome is a severe illness caused by toxins released from S. aureus bacteria, and may follow any existing staph infection. It mostly occurs in women using tampons or diaphragm, or as a complication of a nasal surgery or staph wound infection (15).

Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome may include (15) :

  • Sudden onset of high fever, vomiting, diarrhea and muscle pains
  • Sunburn-like skin rash, which peels off in 1-2 weeks
  • Shock may develop; disease is fatal in about 5% of cases


  1. Mastitis (
  2. Parotitis (
  3. Epiglottitis (
  4. Urinary infections in men (
  5. Osteomyelitis (
  6. Staph arthritis (
  7. Hospital-acquired pneumonia (
  8. Bacterial endocarditis (
  9. Staph meningitis (
  10. Bacteremia (
  11. Temporary bacteremia, sepsis (
  12. Sepsis (
  13. Sepsis (
  14. Soft tisue gangrene (
  15. Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (SSSS) (
About Jan Modric (249 Articles)
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  • chriswil714

    I have a 4 yr. old little girl. She has been hospitalized here at Erlanger 3 times for infection in her blood and in her pelvic bone. She has been taking antibiotics since July 2009 and now its Jan. 2010 and her disease has worsened. She has had 11 procedures done and the last 2 the drs. removed pieces of the bone from pelvis. I dont understand why the infection keeps coming back and why it is worse everytime.

    • Jan Modric

      To chriswil714.

      Her doctor should explain what exact microbes were found in her blood and pelvic bone and why is this happening. It can be lowered immunity, some sort of blood disorder or other underlying disease. Maybe you can provide more information from her medical documentation – doctors usually put their opinions and diagnoses there.

  • Pingback: What is Staphylococcus aureus | Current Health Articles()

  • Louie

    My niece, she’s 14 and she keeps having these huge boils around her legs. The doctor said that she was getting infected by some bacteria in the air but, we think its because she keeps eating too much junk food. Well anyway, despite the medication she gets it doesn’t seem to work because the boils keep comming back. Whats happnin’ to her? What should we do?

    • Jan Modric


      an infectologist can take a sample (swab) from the boils and send it to microbiological testing, and prescribe appropriate treatment according to results. Neither the air or junk food are the likely cause.

  • jasandpar

    My bf had staph infection on the coverage of his brain, and he went to coma.

    Now he doesn’t remember anything, hes a baby again. Doctors said hes not likely to recover.

    Can he recover???

    • Jan Modric


      hard to say, a doctor can tell.

  • jasandpar

    But doctors said he’s not likely to recover, but can he? please tell me

    Can he recover???

    • Jan Modric


      it is impossible for me to tell, if he will recover or not, since I don’t know what exact infection he has and how severely he is affected. You can ask his doctors about exact diagnosis he has (like staphylococcal meningitis, staphylococcal encephalitis) and what can be expected.

  • deutsche001

    Been diagnosed with internal staph infection. I have been going to the doctor for three month now; started with a rash on my arms, stomach and legs. I received a shot for this.
    I went to ER. vitals all normal, even though I feel like s… .
    Today they put me on this high potency antibiotics that hurt your liver and all, I do not mind, but how did I get this stuff??

    • Jan Modric


      staph infections spread with a skin-to skin contact with an infected person, or by sharing towels, sport equipment or anything what can touch your skin and the skin of an infected person.

  • jessiwells

    I took my 19 month old to the er for spider bit (it was staph though) and they told me it was from his carseat being too tight, 3 week later he has another and took him to pediatrician and they told me it was staff and last doctor likely spread it while he was trying to scrub it off. Can i sue?

    • Jan Modric


      I’m not sure if anyone can tell if the staph infection was spread by the doctor, by your hands, or by the child’s clothes or some other way.

  • jeanny

    HI I have follicitis and have had chronic gassey diarrea, chills,chronic fatique, goin on now 6 years (both) i was reading that staph can be intestinial infections too? some docs have have told me there not sure they are related, so i always thought they were seperate infections , is it called two different names, follicutis and something else?and if their both from staph would i have to get rid of the bacteria in my stomach before i can get rid if it on my skin? complicated stuff. thank you

  • jeanny

    HI also, my special keeps giving me antibiotcs whenevr i ask, ive been on them like 10 times now, should i tone it down? or just keep taking them for ever? and would you takecare of stomach infection first or skin, cause i havent seen a stomach gastr isteninial specialist yet, so i dont know his opinion yet? its important to me not to just take too mant antin biotics…and constantly wash habds with anti bacterial soaps? i think im just gonna go back to normal soaps, and i do have follicutis that did get resistant to a certain cream and soap, so i guess if i keep using fuciden too it soon will no longer work? so its better to just not use creams oils?? thanks

    • Dr. Chris

      Hi Jeanny

      It is important to identify the underlying cause that is predisposing you to these recurrent infections. The antibiotics are necessary to treat the infection but without attending to the underlying cause, the infection will recur. Excessive use of antibacterial soaps can dry your skin which in turn can make you more prone to developing micro-abrasions on the skin thereby leading to an infection. Your doctor will be able to advise you further. You should also be seeing a dermatologist at this point. Don’t mix medication without first speaking to your doctor. This can often irritate the skin and make you prone to infections. Treatment is only there to help resolve the infection but ultimately identifying the cause and avoiding it where possible is the only means of prevention. It is not about you building up a resistance to the medication, but rather than the bacteria on your skin may becoming resistant to it. This can complicate long term management and make it harder to treat over time.

  • Hunter

    I had six or seven large staph infections come upon my leg…doctor gave me bactrim, second day on meds I got a stye in my eye, seventh day (and last day on meds) my testicles got a huge rash, turned red and itched. Should I be worried? Is there a reason I keep getting different symptoms?

  • jodi

    i had a staph infection on my lower back area after getting a tattoo, working in a bar, I come in contact with a lot of bacteria im sure, and people were looking at my tattoo and touching it. that was around 6 months ago. now I have a few hard bumps under my skin, and a tiny bit of pus comes out but that is all and I have a few little bumps around them also. I am also having a terrible time with facial acne. my lower abdomen is swollen now and that is what is the most concerning, I have a little pouch and I normally have a very flat stomach and I am in shape. I also had never had a yeast infection, and now that I read some of the information above, I am a bit concerned. I had some irritation, it was itchy, which I had never ever experienced and hurt to touch but no bumps , externally that is, obviously from what I could see there were no bumps. I am freaking out and I am not sure what is going on. please help

    • Hi Jody, You need to see your primary health doctor immediately and possibly follow up with a dermatologist. This may be a persistent but localized infection that can eventually disseminate and spread to other parts of the body. It can then be a very dangerous situation. You may also want to read up on folliculitis here