Microorganisms on the Skin
On the integumentary system would not be complete without considering the invisible layer of microorganisms that inhabit the surface of the skin. This huge colony of organisms is the “normal mi-crobial flora.” Similar to residents and tourists in acity, there are resident microorganisms (resident flora) that are regularly found in a specific area at a specific age and transient flora that inhabit the skin for hours, days, or weeks. The resident flora play an important part in maintaining health and normal function.
Resident flora prevent harmful bacteria from thriving on the skin by directly inhibiting them or competing with them for nutrients. However, resi-dent bacteria can be infective and harmful if they are introduced in large amounts into the bloodstream, which can occur when the skin is injured or when surgery is performed without adequately cleansing the skin surface before incision. They may also be harmful in individuals whose immunity has been sig-nificantly suppressed.
It may be surprising to learn that profuse sweat-ing, washing, and bathing cannot significantly alter normal flora. The skin must be treated with special solutions to make it sterile. This should not deter hand washing before and after treating clients, how-ever. Potential pathogens are easily removed by water and scrubbing with soap containing disinfectants has an even greater effect.