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Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome

by A. Damian Dhar, MD, JD

Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is a reaction to a staphylococcal skin infection in which the skin blisters and peels off as though burned.

  • In addition to the blistered, peeling skin, the person has fever, chills, and weakness.

  • The diagnosis is based on the appearance of the skin, but sometimes a biopsy is done.

  • With timely treatment, the prognosis is excellent.

  • Treatment involves antibiotics given intravenously.

Certain types of staphylococci bacteria secrete toxic substances that cause the top layer of the epidermis to split from the rest of the skin. Because the toxin spreads throughout the body, staphylococcal infection of a small area of skin may result in peeling over the entire body. Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome occurs almost exclusively in infants and children under the age of 6. It rarely occurs in older people except for those with kidney failure or a weakened immune system. Like other staphylococcal infections, staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is contagious.

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