Climbing Related Staph Infections


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 7, 2012 - 02:37pm PT
I recently came down with a case of non MRSA Staph aureus bacteremia/sepsis. It centered in my spine and sternoclavicular areas resulting in a couple weeks in hospital and a few surgeries to drain abscesses and relieve spinal cord pressure. (So I am told...was pretty out of it and there's 3-4 days that are missing for me). Nobody can pin down the source exactly, but I had been doing alot of crack climbing in SoDak and Colo and beat up my hands pretty good-poor technique for sure.
I have seen references to this in a gym situation, but I rarely climb inside.
Looking at 8 weeks or more of IV antibiotics plus open wound treatments and regaining good use/strength in my left leg and bladder.
Wonder if anyone else has run across this?
Might make a case for using fresh tape and washing hands and etc post climbing. Or just the luck of the draw.

Trad climber
Nevada City, CA
Dec 7, 2012 - 02:39pm PT

Heal up soon.

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Dec 7, 2012 - 02:47pm PT
well, hope you get better.
I once climbed with a nurse in Jtree, she told me she always taped for cracks becaus of the micro organisms living in there.
John M

Dec 7, 2012 - 02:52pm PT
Yowzer.. I hope you heal up soon.

Nobody can pin down the source exactly, but I had been doing alot of crack climbing in SoDak and Colo and beat up my hands pretty good-poor technique for sure.

I don't understand the process. Does this mean that the staph possibly entered a cut on your hands and traveled to your back where it caused the abscesses?

Near Boston
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:01pm PT
Pretty unlikely you got something unique climbing.
Did you recently have any respiratory infections? Cold etc.?

Big Wall climber
Yosemite area
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:03pm PT
Pretty sure a friend of mine got MRSA from running up and down the high-traffic minitraxion lines in the valley. Why not? People showing up every weekend and grinding holes in their skin at the same "hold" in a crack. Makes perfect sense, even moreso at the gym. Initial lesion was on the back of his hand, then it kept cropping up in other places until he finally beat it with months of antibiotics, garlic, iodine and other stuff.


Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2012 - 03:16pm PT
From what I have read, Staph is ubiquitous in the environment and lives on the skin of about everybody. It will enter the body through a break in the skin, but why it happens to go wild at times is unclear.
No recent colds, etc. And not climbing specific I would think.
My girlfriend helpfully pointed out that up to 20% of the population are non-symptomatic carriers, and the favorite place of residence is the nose/nasal passages; so maybe now I will finally quit picking my nose!

A long way from where I started
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:34pm PT
I don't understand the process. Does this mean that the staph possibly entered a cut on your hands and traveled to your back where it caused the abscesses?

Where it pops up is not related to where it enters.

Trad climber
So Cal urban sprawl Hell
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:40pm PT
I ended up with a horrid case of MRSA and I blame it on an indoor gym. The original M.D. misdiagnosed it as a spider bite and of course, it only got worse and ended up spreading to other areas of my body. It took months to get ride of, just when one area would heal, it would manifest itself on another part of my body. A nasty infection to say the least!!!!

Super paranoid now and if I notice what appears to be a so-called spider bite on any of my friends, I make sure it does not increase in size.

Sorry to hear what you had to go through!!!

Trad climber
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:44pm PT
You are right Phil. Staph is literally everywhere. Every person has staph and step bacteria on their skin.

Anytime you have a break in skin you provide an entry point for bacteria. Since staph and strep are the most common bugs that live on your skin it is not surprising that they are the most common skin infections.

With almost every cut/abrasion there likely invasion of these bacteria but most of the time our bodies are able to fight them off. There are many variants of staph that vary in their resistance to antibiotics and vary in their virulence. The virulence and number of bacteria that get into a wound as well as your bodies ability to fight infection determine how fast your body fights off the bacteria or if it actually invades and moves to other parts of your body.

Most people do not know that the typical staph that lives on the surface of our bodies can be life threatening if it gets into our bodies. Just goes to show how amazing our bodies are at keeping these things out.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:51pm PT
I had something similar, but not as serious, a few years ago. The infected area was my elbow. I had scratched up the back of my arm and shoulder chicken-winging in a sleeveless shirt a few days previous, but thought nothing of it at the time.

The cuts were all healed when the infection developed; it was entirely internal. The pain was pretty bad---just the touch bedsheets on my elbow at night was excruciating. I was on antibiotics for more than a month and the doc was just on the verge of operating when the infection settled down and then cleared up.

The experience made me a little paranoid; I now carry some Bactine in my climbing pack and gym bag and apply it to any cuts and scratches as soon as possible.

Trad climber
Dec 7, 2012 - 03:58pm PT
Got this little beauty when I took a nice 30fter on the crux pitch of the NA wall. Fully ripped a screamer during the fall too.

Ended up with a drug resistant staph (MRSA) and had to take over 2 months of antibiotics. Still have pain from this thing over 3 months later.
NA Wall Wound
NA Wall Wound
Credit: Texplorer

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Dec 7, 2012 - 04:08pm PT
This is a fascinating talk which sheds light on how we can have pathogenic bacteria on and in our bodies but other bacteria keep them at bay. Great new insights into immunity.

Trad climber
Dec 7, 2012 - 04:09pm PT
Quick treatment of cuts is imperative in preventing staph infection. Surfing in the tropics where you get coral cuts that infect very quickly taught me the best way is to trim away any flappers cleaning out any particles, and then flush out the cut or wound with hydrogen peroxide, then cover with heavy coat of antibiotic cream and bandage. Keep changing out the bandage and adding more cream whenever it gets wet or possibly dirty. To be safe, you have to be aggressive in your treatment. These new germs are out there on frequented routes and in the climbing gyms, beware! Maybe taping up is the best medicine.

portland, or
Dec 7, 2012 - 04:42pm PT
had "one of those" too. my elbow swelled & I thought I had the flu for like 3 or 4 days. Took me a while & a visit to a Dr. to realize that flu & elbow swelling were symptoms of the same infection. this was at the end of a climbing trip to red rocks.
Captain...or Skully

Dec 7, 2012 - 04:45pm PT
Some folks don't get those. I've had thousands of cuts & scrapes, gobies, & what not, & I never worry about them. Tape it up & drive on. If it kills me, then I'll be dead.
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Dec 7, 2012 - 04:54pm PT
I remember climbing cracks without tape for a long, long time during the late 70s and getting quite a few impact abrasions on the back of my hands where I hung off them jamming. However, when I got back down to the Bay one winter I developed warts on the back of my hands in the same locations where I had had the cuts and abrasions earlier. Had to have them burned off by the family GP. Sure sounds as thought the virus that produces warts got started in the wounds on the back of my hands. I've heard of this before too. Someone told me that Ron Kauk had a bunch of warts on the back of his hands he had to have burned off too.

So tape up, wear crack mits or (better) don't get cuts on the back of your hands crack climbing because your technique is so darn good you never get cuts or "gobees" (sp?!).

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Dec 7, 2012 - 05:11pm PT
I used to laugh at climbers who used tape (yeah, I was a cocky sob...)

These days, pushing 60, the backs of my hands are fried from sun exposure and wear and tear and I can't even climb a 5.10 crack without breaking the skin somewhere. Tape has become a routine for me.

Didn't RV have a nasty staph infection, hospitalized and all, a few years ago? I remember seeing him in Josh shortly after and he looked like he just got out of the gulag.

I am convinced that eating probiotic foods like raw milk and fermented raw sauerkraut, and even taking a supplement like PB8 when under stress really helps your immune system fight off pathogenic bacteria like staph.

Dec 7, 2012 - 05:19pm PT
f * # k mrsa. you dont want that shit! especially if you're older or have pre-existing medical conditions. I came down with it the day before I left for a three month trip. Still took the trip, climbed a lot, but it sucked being sick the whole time.

A lot of infection prevention comes down to practicing good hygiene, which can be harder when living the dirtbag lifestyle. everybody remember to clean up good!
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 7, 2012 - 05:32pm PT
You can't get a vaccination for staph, but you can for tetanus. Given what climbers do, a regular (~5 years?) tetanus shot is a very good idea.
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