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Skin Infections

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • The article offers a detailed understanding of skin infections, outlining their symptoms, causes, prevention techniques, and treatment options.
  • Symptoms of skin infections can vary from redness and itchiness to severe conditions like pus, blisters, or decaying skin.
  • Skin infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, each manifesting differently on the skin.
  • Prevention of skin infections primarily involves maintaining personal hygiene and not sharing personal items.
  • Treatment options for skin infections range from self-healing to the use of antibiotics or over-the-counter medications, with severe cases requiring further medical intervention.

Possible Symptoms for Skin Infections

1. Redness of the skin

There are several causes of a skin infection, and each of these causes can create different types of skin infections. However, one of the consistent symptoms of a skin infection is redness in the skin.[1] This can also translate to a skin rash, which is an outbreak of red, scaly, bumpy skin that usually occurs in patches.

2. Itchiness or pain

Itchiness often goes hand-in-hand with rashes and red skin caused by skin infections. Sometimes, the feeling will be a throbbing or constant pain instead. It is common for the body to create pain in the area of a skin infection in order to bring your attention to the problem.

3. Swelling

In many cases, patches of skin will begin to swell up as the result of a skin infection. This will also make the skin tender to the touch.

4. Severe symptoms

Sometimes, a skin infection can become severe and even life-threatening.[1] If this happens, more intense symptoms can occur. These can include pus, blisters, sloughing or breaking down of the skin, or skin that looks like it is decaying.

Top 5 Causes of Skin Infections

1. Bacteria

Bacteria is one of the most common causes of a skin infection.[2] If this is the cause, you will usually first see symptoms like redness or bumps and then the issue will become worse without treatment. Common bacterial skin infections include staphylococcal or staph infections, impetigo, and cellulitis. Others can include boils and leprosy.

2. Viruses

A virus can cause a viral skin infection. Some can be mild while others can be severe and even life-threatening. Viral skin infections can include hand, foot, and mouth disease, herpes zoster (or shingles), herpes simplex, warts, measles, chickenpox, and molluscum contagiosum.

3. Fungi

Coming into contact with a fungus can also cause a skin infection. Fungal infections usually develop in parts of the body that remain cool and damp for long periods of time, such as the armpit or the feet. Some are contagious while others are not. Common fungal infections include athlete’s foot, ringworm, nail fungus, yeast infections, diaper rash, and oral thrush.

4. Parasites

Parasitic infections are caused by certain parasites, like bedbugs and lice. Such infections can be extremely painful, but they are not life-threatening, even though they can spread into the bloodstream and the organs.[2] Some of the most common types of parasitic infections include scabies and cutaneous larva migrans.

2 Ways to Prevent Skin Infections

1. Keep clean

It can be hard to prevent a skin infection entirely, but a good start is to keep clean. Wash your hands often and before every meal, and take showers after physical activity, especially contact sports where you might be at risk of contracting a skin infection from someone else. Wipe down equipment before and after you use it at the gym. Also, if you have an open wound, make sure to wash it with soap and water, use antibiotic medicine to keep it clean, and bandage it so it will not be open to the elements.[3]

2. Don’t share items

Not all skin infections are passed from person to person, but a good way to avoid those that are is to avoid sharing items like makeup, brushes, and towels. Don’t use someone else’s toiletries if you can avoid it. This is a good way to ensure that you won’t catch or pass on the elements that lead to a skin infection.

Possible Skin Infection Treatment Options

1. Time

Some skin infections don’t need treatment at all and will clear up on their own. These are most normally viral skin infections like chickenpox or warts. You can use over-the-counter treatments and home remedies for some of these issues, as it can be uncomfortable to wait for them to clear up. However, in most cases, these require little to no medical treatment for a safe recovery.

2. Antibiotics

Bacterial infections are most often treated with antibiotics. These can include topical antibiotics, which are applied to the area of the infection, or oral antibiotics, which are taken through the mouth. In certain, rare cases, antibiotics might need to be administered intravenously. This usually only occurs if the particular bacterial strain is resistant to the typical treatment options.

3. Over-the-counter medications

Antifungal creams and medicines can often be purchased over the counter to treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Those who do not see an improvement in their condition may need to ask their doctor for prescription-strength treatments instead. In addition, medicated creams can be bought over the counter for parasitic skin infections, and NSAIDs can be used to reduce inflammation.

4. Cold Compresses

If you are dealing with a particularly painful or uncomfortable skin infection, you might want to use cold compresses to bring down swelling and minimize itching. It can help to avoid scratching the site of your skin infection, as this will allow you to heal more quickly, so using a cold compress can contribute to faster healing.

5. Further treatment

Certain skin infections can be severe and may not respond to normal antibiotics. These can include bacterial infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. In the case of a skin infection that causes severe symptoms or does not seem to be subsiding with treatment and time, further medical help may be needed.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask about Skin Infections

  • How long have you been having the symptoms of a skin infection?
  • Did you come into contact with anything different around the time you started developing symptoms?
  • Do you have an immune system disease or a weakened immune system?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • How have you been managing the symptoms up until now?

Skin Infections May Also be Known as:

  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Viral skin infections
  • Fungal skin infections
  • Parasitic skin infections


Frequently asked questions

  • What are the common symptoms of skin infections?

    Common symptoms include redness, itchiness, pain, swelling, and in severe cases, pus, blisters, or decaying skin.
  • What are the main causes of skin infections?

    Skin infections are primarily caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
  • How can I prevent skin infections?

    Prevention involves maintaining cleanliness, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding the sharing of personal items.
  • What are the different types of skin infections?

    The different types of skin infections include bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections.
  • Are all skin infections severe?

    No, not all skin infections are severe. Some clear up over time, while others may require medical treatment.
  • How are skin infections treated?

    Treatment can range from self-care to over-the-counter medications and antibiotics. Severe cases may require further medical intervention.
  • Are parasitic skin infections life-threatening?

    No, while parasitic skin infections can be painful, they are not usually life-threatening.
  • What might a doctor ask about my skin infection?

    A doctor may ask about your symptoms, their duration, any changes in your lifestyle or hygiene practices, and if you've been in contact with anyone with a similar infection.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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