Staph Infection | Expat Survival Guide - Self Medicating A Staph Infection In A Third World Country


Ask any well traveled expat about health care, during his or her travels, and most will tell you essentially the same thing – Some countries provide excellent or adequate medical services, while others are completely inadequate or nearly nonexistent. Today’s Expat Survival Guide will concentrate on the countries where medical care is, in many cases, sub par or not readily available.

Before we get too far into this, I should tell you that the information contained in this article should never substitute for the advice and care of a qualified doctor or health care professional. However, should you find yourself in an area where such an individual is not readily available, then the information contained herein will be of good use to you. Just make sure that you visit a qualified doctor as soon as possible, as only he or she will be able to completely and accurately diagnose and treat an infectious condition.

First off. We should go over exactly what a Staph Infection is, and the symptoms of such an infection.

A Staph Infection is an infection caused by Staphylococcus (or “Staph” bacteria). It is a very common bacterium and is generally believed to be present in about 25% of all people. In many cases, it lives upon the skin in the nose, mouth, genital, and anal areas without causing an infection. However, once a cut or puncture occurs, in an area where the bacteria are residing, chances of an infection increase dramatically. The foot is also susceptible to picking up the bacteria from the floor. Staph infections normally begin with a minor cut that becomes infected with the bacteria.

Staph infections can range from a simple boil or enlarged pimple type occurrence to dangerous flesh-eating conditions which can be highly resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistant strains of the bacteria are prevalent in North America, due to an ever growing dependence on antibiotics to treat bacteria related conditions and illnesses. The severity of a Staph Infection normally depends on the depth of the infection and how fast it is spread. Of course strains of the bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics can become more dangerous and may even be life threatening if left untreated or unchecked.



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Staph infections normally begin with a small area of redness. The area may be very tender and swollen. It may or may not begin with a break in the skin. The affected area may become quite warm and painful. If this occurs, then chances are good you have been infected by the Staph Cellulitis strain of the bacteria. This seems to be the most common strain of the bacteria; however, it will be hard to determine whether the strain is resistant or not to antibiotics, unless a culture sample is tested. Therefore, you should visit a qualified doctor as soon as you can. But this guide is for expats with no qualified doctor readily available to him, and until you can actually visit a doctor you have to do something.

I have known many expats that suffered from Staph Infections, while in third world countries. Though I don’t recommend self medicating, there are times when there is no choice. If you find yourself in this position, here are some things you can do to help.

First, keep the infected area very clean. This is the most important thing you can do to help minimize or prevent spread of the bacterial infection. When cleaning the affected area, use a good quality soap and warm water. Allow the soap to remain on the infected area of the skin for two or three minutes before rinsing.

Once the affected area is cleaned, wipe the affected area with cotton and hydrogen peroxide or betadine to further help kill the surface bacteria. If the wound is an open wound then saturate the wound with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to thoroughly clean the wound. Cover the affected area with a clean gauze bandage. Clean the affected area and change the bandage at least three or four times daily.

If you have access to a pharmacy or drug store (In many developing countries there are pharmacies available but not trained doctors) you will most likely be able to acquire most common antibiotics and antibacterial medications without a prescription. Many western countries restrict sale of these medications; however, most developing nations do not. Therefore, if you have access to a pharmacy then the following medications are the most commonly prescribed for Staph Infections:

Good ‘ole Penicillin (if you’re not allergic) can fight many nonresistant strains of the bacteria, and is usually available in most countries of the world. Actually, many doctors will usually prescribe two derivatives of penicillin to treat Staph infections. Penicillin or Amoxicillin which are broad spectrum antibiotics and Cloxacillin, Cloxacillin Sodium or Flucloxacillin which are narrow spectrum derivatives that more actively attack the Staph Bacteria itself. Taking both at the same time is quite common. Both are normally prescribed in 500mg capsules and should be taken 3 – 4 times daily. Penicillin and its derivatives work best on an empty stomach.

If you are allergic to Penicillin, you can substitute Erythromycin for the Penicillin or Amoxicillin and Doxycycline for the Cloxacillin-based drug. Erythromycin dosage is 500mg twice daily, and Doxycycline dosage is 100mg once daily. Erythromycin and Doxycycline may be taken with or without food.

All antibiotics mentioned above will require 3 – 4 days before signs of improvement, if any, are noticed. Typical periods of treatment are 10 – 14 days. However, in more serious cases, the need to take the antibiotics for up to 45 days is not uncommon.

In addition, many studies and tests have shown that applying a good anti bacterial ointment or salve to the wound or infected area can help prevent the spread of the Staph Bacteria and allow the affected area to more quickly heal.

Many expats have used more natural remedies when neither a doctor nor pharmacy is available, and I have also used a few to treat minor staph infections. However, natural remedies should only be used when no other resources are available. I guess that is a topic for another issue of the Expat Survival Guide. Again, if you believe you have a Staph Infection, see a qualified doctor as soon as possible. The information here has helped many expats, but it may not be the best advice for you.


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