If the skin of a person’s nose becomes damaged, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection.

Many people carry Staphylococcus aureus (S.aureus) on their skin or within their nose.

Here we look at the various causes and symptoms of a staph infection in the nose. We also outline the available treatment options for a nasal staph infection, as well as some tips for prevention.

a woman holding her nose because it is sore from a staph infection in noseShare on Pinterest
Excessively blowing or rubbing the nose is a possible cause of a staph infection in the nose.

The bacteria S. aureus cause staph infection.

Between 20–80% of humans carry S. aureus within their nasal passages. Most of the time, the bacteria do not cause any harm. However, if the skin of the nose becomes damaged, the bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection.

Damage to the surface of the skin may trigger a mild to a moderate staph infection. Damage to the deeper layers of the skin may trigger a severe or even life-threatening staph infection.

Staph bacteria are contagious and can spread to other people through:

  • skin-to-skin contact
  • sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes, razors, or washcloths
  • coughing or sneezing, although these types of transmission are less common

A staph infection in the nose can occur as a result of a scratch, sore, or other types of damage to the skin of the nose.

Some potential causes of a nasal staph infection include:

  • nose picking
  • excessively blowing or rubbing the nose
  • plucking or tweezing nasal hairs

A person who has a nasal staph infection may develop the following symptoms:

  • redness and swelling of the nose
  • crusting around the nostrils
  • boils inside one or both nostrils
  • facial swelling
  • pain
  • fever

In some cases, a staph infection may resolve by itself. In other cases, a person will require treatment to clear the infection and prevent further complications.

Some people may succeed in treating minor nasal infections at home. People can soothe sores and crusting by holding a clean, warm, damp cloth onto affected areas. It is important to wash the cloth afterward to avoid spreading the bacteria.

Some people may develop pus-filled boils inside the nostrils. A doctor will need to drain the boil in order to treat the infection and promote wound healing. This procedure typically involves the use of a local anesthetic.

If a nasal staph infection does not clear up by itself, a person may need to take oral antibiotics or apply topical antimicrobial treatments.

Without treatment, staph infections may recur. This is because S.aureus remains inside the nasal passages.

Prescription antibiotic treatments can reduce numbers of staph bacteria, thereby helping to prevent the staph infection from recurring.

Researchers have been investigating the best treatment to prevent recurrent staph infections. According to a 2015 review, topical antimicrobial medications may be more effective than oral antibiotics. This is because S. aureus may have a lower resistance to topical treatments.

Practicing good personal hygiene may also help to reduce the risk of repeat infections.

If a staph infection enters the bloodstream, it can cause serious complications. We list some potential complications below.

Facial cellulitis

Facial cellulitis is a bacterial infection affecting the deeper layers of the skin. Without treatment, the condition can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of facial cellulitis include:

Cavernous sinus thrombosis

A cavernous sinus thrombosis (CST) is a blood clot that forms in the cavernous sinuses. This is the hollow space between the brain and the eye sockets.

A CST can develop when an infection in the face or skull spreads to the cavernous sinuses. Although rare, the condition can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of a CST include:


An infection can sometimes spread to the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. The medical term for this is endocarditis.

Symptoms of endocarditis include:


Pneumonia is the medical term for inflammation of one or both lungs. It typically occurs as a result of infection.

In pneumonia, the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, within the lungs fill with fluid or pus. This makes it difficult for a person to breathe.

Some common symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • rapid or shallow breathing
  • breathlessness, even when resting
  • chest pain that worsens when breathing or coughing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • a fever
  • chills
  • feeling generally unwell
  • loss of appetite


Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the body’s immune system overreacts to an infection. This overreaction leads to a toxic build-up of chemicals within the blood.

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • rapid breathing
  • increased heart rate
  • a fever
  • chills
  • feeling confused or disorientated

Toxic shock syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare condition in which staph bacteria release dangerous levels of toxins into the bloodstream. TSS can be life-threatening.

The symptoms of TSS come on suddenly and worsen rapidly. They include:

  • a fever
  • flu-like symptoms, such as a headache, body aches, and a sore throat
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • a widespread skin rash that appears similar to sunburn
  • a bright red coloring of the lips, tongue, and eye-whites
  • difficulty breathing
  • fainting
  • confusion

There are steps a person can take to reduce their risk of developing or spreading a staph infection of the nose or skin. These include:

  • regularly washing hands with soap and clean water
  • showering or bathing daily to keep skin clean
  • covering any cuts or wounds with sterile bandaids or dressings
  • avoiding sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes, razors, and washcloths
  • covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • disposing of tissues after blowing the nose
  • avoiding picking the nose
  • using only sterile equipment to pluck or tweeze nasal hair, or avoiding these practices altogether

Some staph infections may resolve by themselves, while others may require treatment.

People should see a doctor if the staph infection:

  • is severe
  • lasts longer than a week, or keeps coming back
  • is getting worse, or spreading to other parts of the face
  • causes a skin rash or redness
  • causes fever or chills
  • causes breathing difficulty, or a change in heart rate

Anyone who has a weakened immune system should see a doctor at the first sign of a staph infection. This includes people who:

Staph bacteria commonly live inside the nose and are usually harmless. However, if the skin of the nose becomes damaged, the bacteria can enter the wound and cause infection.

A person who has a nasal staph infection may develop redness, sores, or crusting around the nostrils. A person may need antibiotics or topical antimicrobial medications to treat the infection.

People should seek treatment if their infection is severe or persistent or accompanied by other symptoms. People who have a weakened immune system should seek treatment as soon as possible to reduce the risk of complications.