MRSA at home & in the community
MRSA at home has been written to help patients, families and carers who may be concerned about a diagnosis of MRSA and how to deal with it in their everyday life. The information addresses frequently asked questions about MRSA in the home and community setting. Contact from patients and analysis of keywords used to search our website has shown that MRSA and how to deal with it in every day life is a concern for people diagnosed with MRSA, their families and carers. This information aims to answer some of the questions we are often asked. There is more general information about its symptoms and treatment on our 'About MRSA' page.
- How can we catch MRSA, how is it spread?
- How can I protect myself and my family from hospital and community acquired infections?
- Is there guidance on how to wash hands effectively?
- How should I wash my clothes if I have MRSA?
- NHS Choices guidance on hygiene at home
- Further information
- Reference sources
How can we catch MRSA, how is it spread?
MRSA is spread by physical contact. Here are some examples of how MRSA can be spread from one person to another:
- Touching a person's skin
- Once on a person's skin it can then pass deeper into the body if there are openings in the skin, like cuts or abrasions
- Touching contaminated items and furniture that are near a person who has MRSA
- Because touch-contact plays such an important role in spreading the bacteria, hand hygiene is extremely important in stopping the spread. If hand hygiene doesn’t happen at the right moments - for example - after touching someone with MRSA, then it can spread via unclean hands. Hand hygiene is so important that it will be covered again on this page.
How can I protect myself and my family from hospital and community acquired infections?
The chances of contracting all types of healthcare associated infections are significantly reduced by cleaning your hands at the right time and not sharing personal items. In shared facilities, for instance, in gyms, it would be considered a sensible precaution and good practice to place a towel on the bench before sitting, as would ensuring the facilities are cleaned frequently and that there is good ventilation to the changing room and showers.
Other simple measures are regular bathing and showering, regular changing of linen and underwear, effective hand washing, avoiding sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, face cloths, towels, and razors, and keeping wounds covered. It is always good practice to maintain appropriate hygiene measures which include proper cleansing and disinfection of cuts and minor wounds. Wounds should be covered with a bandage until healed and you should avoid contact with other peoples' bandages and lesions unless you are helping them care for their wounds. If the infection spreads or recurs seek medical advice for further investigation and/or treatment, such spreading infection should not be ignored.
Is there guidance on how to wash hands effectively?
In addition to being meticulous about cleaning your hands at the right time if you’re looking after someone with MRSA, such as before and after helping with wound dressings (as well as wearing gloves) there are certain times in the home where washing your hands is also important, for example washing your hands after visiting the toilet, before preparing food and before eating. Use soap and water and wash thoroughly. Using the technique recommended by the National Patient Safety Agency will help, as a guide using this technique takes about as long as it takes you to recite the alphabet or sing happy birthday twice
The animation below shows how to wash hands effectively:
- Wet hands
- Apply liquid soap
- Rub hands palm to palm
- Rub right palm over back of left hand
- And left palm over back of right hand
- Palm to palm fingers interlaced
- Back of fingers to opposing palm with fingers interlocked
- Rotational rubbing of right thumb clasped in left palm
- Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm
- Rotational rubbing backwards and forwards with clasped fingers in palms (to clean around and under fingernails)
- Dry with paper towels
Remember to cover cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage or waterproof dressing, depending on the medical advice you have been given. This will help the wound heal. It will also prevent you from spreading bacteria to other people
Avoid touching other people's wounds or bandages unless you are helping with clinical care and have been instructed on how to do this safely
Avoid sharing personal items like towels or razors. If you use any shared gym equipment, it would be considered a sensible precaution to wipe it with antibacterial wipes before and after you use it
How should I wash my clothes if I have MRSA?
If you have been diagnosed with MRSA or are caring for someone with MRSA you should wash your clothes, bedding and linen as normal at the hottest temperature suitable for the fabric. You may wish to consider using a using a bleach-based laundry product, however please be mindful of changing laundry powder or detergent if there is likely to be anyone with skin sensitivity in your household. The doctors or nurses at your local hospital or surgery may have some useful information leaflets that address these types of questions.
Wash towels, bedding and underwear separately, taking care not to overload your machine. You can tumble dry or line dry and iron clothes as normal, although not scientifically proven, ironing may help to remove any harmful bacteria.
It makes sense to follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding your washing machine, most recommend cleaning it out at least once a month with the machine empty and a full load of detergent at the hottest wash cycle. Products designed to descale your washing machine may also assist in helping to keep your machine free from moulds and biofilms when used regularly.
For more information download our information leaflet "Advice for those affected by MRSA outside of hospital"
NHS Choices guidance on hygiene at home
You can't kill all the germs in your home but there are some nasty ones you need to protect yourself against. Good home hygiene can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Find out how to make your home safe from harmful germs.
Infection: prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections in primary and community care - NICE Clinical guidelines, CG139 - Issued: March 2012
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): Infection Control Quality Standard [QS61]: - Published date: April 2014
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) quality standard [QS113]: Healthcare-associated infections - Published date: February 2016 - Information resource added 17 February 2016
Guidelines that have been developed by the Working Party convened on behalf of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. Their aim is to provide general practitioners and other community and hospital-based healthcare professionals with pragmatic advice about when to suspect MRSA infection in the community, when and what cultures should be performed and what should be the management options, including the need for hospitalization:
Guidelines (2008) for UK practice for the diagnosis and management of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)infections presenting in the community - Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 13 March 2008
The aim of MRSA Action UK's publications is to give practical information to help people to manage the effects of MRSA on their lives. Therefore, we draw on the personal experiences of people who have had MRSA or cared for someone with MRSA as well the expert opinion of health professionals and evidence-based medical research in writing a publication.
To guarantee the accuracy and credibility of our information, we use rigorous criteria to select the information sources used to research and write our publications. All information gathered from external sources is cross-referenced with established medical textbooks or government guidelines and checked by experts in Infection Prevention and Control.
Visit the references page on this site for more information
Page last reviewed: 09/08/2021
Next review due: 09/08/2024
(c) MRSA Action UK 2021
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