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Invasive staph infections are usually more severe.

Invasive staph infections are usually more severe.
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Invasive staph infections

4-minute read

Invasive staphylococchus (staph) infections, although far less common than skin staph infections, are usually more severe. There are many types of invasive staph infections.

Many people carry staph bacteria either on the surface of their skin or in their nose, and in most cases it does not cause any problems. A staph infection occurs when the staphylococcus bacteria gets inside the body.

Invasive staph infections could be life threatening. If you have symptoms of an invasive staph infection, see your doctor as soon as possible or call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

People more at risk of an invasive staph infection include those with diabetes who use insulin, HIV/AIDS, kidney failure requiring dialysis, weakened immune systems, cancer, especially those who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, skin damage (for example, from eczema, insect bites or minor cuts) and respiratory illnesses. There is also a higher risk if you have been in hospital, have an invasive medical device, play contact sports or eat food that has not been prepared in sanitary conditions.

Symptoms of invasive staph infections


A staph infection in your lungs can cause pneumonia. You may have pneumonia if you have:

You might also have some chest pain.

Read more about pneumonia here.

Septic arthritis

Septic arthritis occurs when staphylococcal bacteria infect a joint. It is more common in people with a low immune system.

You may have septic arthritis if you are experiencing:


Sepsis is also known as blood poisoning. The condition is a medical emergency and occurs when staph bacteria infects the bloodstream.

If you are concerned that you or someone else has symptoms of sepsis, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

You may have sepsis if you are feeling very unwell and:


Osteomyelitis is an infection within the bone. While it can affect any bone, it is more common in the arms and legs in children, and in the back and pelvis in adults.

Osteomyelitis can be difficult to detect, but you may have it if you have:

  • a temperature
  • nausea
  • severe bone pain
  • red, warm tender skin at the site of the pain
  • restricted movement of a joint

Read more about osteomyelitis here.

Toxic shock syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome is very rare and occurs when staph bacteria enters the bloodstream and releases poisons. In some people these poisons can lead to organ and tissue damage. Toxic Shock Syndrome can affect anybody and can be associated with the use of tampons.

You may have Toxic shock syndrome if you are feeling very unwell and:

You may also:


Endocarditis occurs when staph bacteria infects one of the valves inside the heart. It is a serious and life-threatening condition. It is more common in people who have problems with their heart valves, but it can happen to anyone.

You may have endocarditis if you develop the symptoms below, either gradually over several weeks or quickly over a few days:

  • a temperature accompanied by chills and night sweats
  • muscle aches and pains
  • shortness of breath
  • unexplained weight loss
  • coughing
  • headache
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness standing up due to low blood pressure
  • weakness and extreme tiredness

Food poisoning

Food poisoning could occur when you eat food containing staph bacteria or the toxins they produce. It usually develops fairly quickly after eating contaminated food. You may have staphylococcal food poisoning if you:

How do I avoid getting an invasive staph infection?

If you are at risk of developing an invasive staph infection, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle — a healthy diet, regular exercise, minimising alcohol and avoiding smoking and illicit drugs.

Washing your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom, before and after preparing food and after being in a crowded area can also reduce your risk of developing the condition.

When should I get help?

Invasive staph infections could be life threatening. If you have symptoms of an invasive staph infection, see your doctor as soon as possible or call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2018

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