Skin infections sending kids to hospitals

UC DAVIS (US) — The number of children hospitalized for skin and soft-tissue infections has more than doubled since 2000, in large part due to community-acquired MRSA—and the way doctors now treat it.

“Often parents don’t recognize that their kid’s abscess or other soft-tissue infections might be MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) because the child hasn’t been in nursing homes or hospitals, where you usually think of getting staph infections,” says Patrick S. Romano, professor of medicine and pediatrics at University of California, Davis. “It’s usually pretty easy to treat, if you treat it early and know what you’re looking for.

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Admissions for severe skin infections now rank as the seventh-most-common reason for children being admitted to the hospital, up from 13th place in 2000, with the biggest jump from 2000 to 2005. That jump is attributable to the manner in which physicians now treat MRSA, Romano says.

“In the early part of the decade, clinicians generally didn’t recognize the growing prevalence of community-acquired MRSA. Starting around 2005, physicians began treating community-acquired MRSA more effectively.”

The study, published online in Academic Pediatrics, examines data from more than 40 states between 2000 and 2007 to track shifts in the reasons why children are hospitalized, and outcomes of those hospitalizations.

The increase in the rate of hospitalization for MRSA among children is related to the increase in the prevalence of the bacterium in the community overall.

“We don’t generally recommend that parents be too compulsive about washing their houses down with antiseptic,” Romano says. “Hand-washing is always an important precaution.”

Hospitalizations likely will decrease once parents are better educated to look for signs of MRSA in their children and to seek early treatment for it, Romano says.

The study, which was a broad analysis of trends concerning children, adolescents, and hospitals, also came to the following conclusions:

  • Teen pregnancy hospitalizations decreased nearly 25 percent since 2000
  • Drug poisonings among teens aged 15-19 declined, paralleling lower suicide rates, which have generally been on the decline since the mid-1990s
  • Substantial decline in admission rates for asthma and diabetes, despite some increases in certain subpopulations
  • Decrease in the rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations nationwide, fueled by a significant decline in admissions of children in the West and South
  • Decline in hospital stay disparities between low- and high-income neighborhoods, even more so in the West and South
  • Improvements in several measures of patient safety, including unintentional punctures of the lung during medical procedures
  • Gradual increasing role for Medicaid, which pays for nearly half of all children’s hospitalizations nationwide.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Harvard University, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Academy Health contributed to the study.

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