American Journal of Clinical Dermatology

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 165–175 | Cite as

Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome

Diagnosis and Management
  • Girish K. Patel
  • Andrew Y. Finlay
Therapy in Practice


Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) is a common disorder that is usually seen in infants and children and rarely seen in adults. SSSS usually presents with a prodrome of sore throat or conjunctivitis. Extremely tender flaccid bullae, which are Nikolsky sign-positive, develop within 48 hours and commonly affect the flexures; occasionally, large areas of the skin may be involved. The bullae enlarge and rupture easily to reveal a moist erythematous base, which gives rise to the scalded appearance.

SSSS in adults is a rare disorder, though there are now over 50 documented cases. Usually SSSS occurs in predisposed individuals, but not all adults have an underlying illness. Whereas mortality in childhood SSSS is approximately 4%, the mortality rate in adults is reported to be greater than 60%.

SSSS is caused by an infection with a particular strain of Staphylococcus aureus, which leads to blistering of the upper layer of the skin, by the release of a circulating exotoxin. It has recently been demonstrated that the exfoliative exotoxin responsible for SSSS leads to the cleavage of desmoglein 1 complex, an important desmosomal protein. The same toxins that are responsible for causing SSSS also cause bullous impetigo. There appears to be a relationship between the disease extent, the amount of toxin produced and whether the toxin is released locally or systemically. As a result there is likely to be a spectrum of disease and there are likely to be a number of milder cases of adult SSSS that go undiagnosed.

Social improvements and hygiene have led to a dramatic fall in the number of cases of SSSS. Treatment is usually straightforward, when there is no coexistent morbidity and the presentation is mild, but can be demanding if the patient is particularly ill. SSSS is still associated with mortality, particularly when it occurs in adults.


Conjunctivitis Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Pemphigus Toxic Shock Syndrome Staphylococcal Scald Skin Syndrome 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this manuscript. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.


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© Adis International Limited 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of DermatologyUniversity of Wales College of MedicineWalesUK

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