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Staph Screening Before Surgery: About Your Child's Test

What is it?

Staph screening is a test to find out if your child is a staph carrier. Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a type of bacteria that can cause infections. A carrier is a person who has the bacteria on his or her skin but who isn't sick. The test is done by swabbing the inside of your child's nose.

Staph bacteria normally live on the skin and in the nose. In most cases, they don't cause problems. They only become a problem when they cause infection. The infection is more likely to be serious in people who are weak or ill or who are being treated in the hospital.

Why is this test done?

A staph screen may be done before your child's surgery to find out if they are a carrier for the bacteria.

Staph infections are more likely to occur in burns or wounds. This includes places on the body where tubes enter or where the doctor makes cuts (incisions) in the skin. Staph bacteria can cause serious infection where they enter the body. The infection can sometimes spread to other places, such as the joints or the heart.

Some types of staph bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics. One example is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

How do you prepare for the test?

  • In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Tell the doctor if your child has recently taken antibiotics.

How is the test done?

The doctor will use a clean cotton swab to collect a sample from the inside of the nose.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few seconds.

What happens after the test??

Staph screening results will be ready before your child's surgery day.

If the test shows that your child is a carrier, your child will be treated to prevent an infection. The doctor may:

  • Have your child take antibiotic pills before and after surgery. Or the doctor may give antibiotics through a needle that's put in your child's vein (IV) during the surgery.
  • Have you use an ointment on your child's skin. Or you may put it inside your child's nose.
  • Have you use a special antibiotic soap or antiseptic wipe to wash your child's skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

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