The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is among the bacterial skin infections that cause blistering and skin exfoliation. The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome may be a consequence of cellulitis, another skin infection. The syndrome may be mild or more severe.

Causes of Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome

The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) is caused by a toxin produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome may be a consequence of cellulitis, an infection caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria as well. 

The infection is more common in children under the age of 5 and for this reason, specialists suspect that the SSSS may be due to the fact that the kidneys are not developed properly and cannot filter toxins effectively. The infection may be transmitted from the mother, through birth or breastfeeding.

Symptoms of Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome

The most common areas where the staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome occurs include the nasal cavity, throat or the abdomen. However, the infection can spread and involve several areas of the body.

The symptoms of SSSS include:

  • Red rash
  • Exfoliation of the skin
  • Formation of blisters
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Tender and warm skin
  • Dehydration

Diagnosis of SSSS

The diagnosis of the staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome will be made judging by the appearance of the skin and by performing a few additional tests. A skin scraping may help identify if the skin is infected with the suspected bacteria. The dermatologist may find secondary fungal skin infections.

A blood test will also be performed to determine if the infection hasn’t entered the blood. A chest radiograph may also be performed to rule out a possible lung infection or pneumonia leading to the symptoms.

SSSS Treatment Options

The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is typically treated with oral and topical antibiotics. The patient should also receive antipyretic medication to reduce fever and IV fluids, if severely dehydrated.

The antibiotics will eliminate the skin infection present, which should lead to fewer symptoms of the staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. The skin should be cleaned regularly, to prevent secondary fungal infections. The dermatologist will prescribe a soothing ointment that will also clean the areas that are affected. The dermatologist will recommend covering the affected areas with gauze, as the skin can be particularly sensitive and painful.

If the patient is an infant, the dermatologist will have to establish what types of antibiotics can be used that are also suitable for infants. Steroids may be effective as a topical treatment, but oral steroids should be avoided, as these inhibit the immune system function and will slow down the recovery process.

Drugs that will increase the workload of the kidneys (i.e. non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) should be avoided. The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome should be treated, as in infants it may lead to sepsis, which can be fatal. However, the mortality rates due to staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome are very low (under 5%).