Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) is a condition caused by a type of staphylococcus aureus bacteria that produces epidermolytic toxins. These toxins are protease enzymes that break down the proteins that hold skin cells together. When a skin infection occurs and these toxins are produced, the skin is damaged and breaks down. This condition usually affects children under 5 years. Older children and adults have usually developed immunity to the epidermolytic toxins.
SSSS usually starts with generalised patches of erythema on the skin. Then the skin looks thin and wrinkled. This is followed by the formation of fluid filled blisters called bullae, which burst and leave very sore, erythematous skin below. This has a similar appearance to a burn or scald.
Nikolsky sign is where very gentle rubbing of the skin causes it to peel away. This is positive in SSSS.
Systemic symptoms include fever, irritability, lethargy and dehydration. If untreated it can lead to sepsis and potentially death.
Most patients will require admission and treatment with IV antibiotics. Fluid and electrolyte balance is key to management as patients are prone to dehydration. When adequately treated, children usually make a full recovery without scarring.
Last updated January 2020