By Mikel Betancourt, PTA
Athletes and Common Skin Infections
Skin infections in athletics can be detrimental to a team and its participants. They can limit participation in practices and games. Skin infections can be contagious upon contact causing them to be more prevalent in contact sports such as football, wrestling, and rugby. The most common skin infections in sports include staphylococcus aureus (Staph) infections, herpes, and ringworm. We are going to take a look at each type of infection, signs of infections, preventions methods, and treatment.
Most Common Skin Infections Among Athletes
Staphylococcus aureus or “Staph” infection
- Staph infections are caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. Staph infections typically start out as small red bumps looking like spider bites and can quickly lead to boils and cellulitis. Boils are fluid or pus-filled abscesses usually at the site of the contact for the infection. These boils can be hot and tender to the touch. Cellulitis is an infection of the underlying layer layers of skin which can spread quickly. Skin that is affected by cellulitis may be red, hot, and tender to the touch. This infection can be life threatening if left untreated. Staph infections can lead to infections in other systems of your body like your lungs leading to pneumonia or infections of the bloodstream called bacteremia. Methicillin resistant staphylococcus (MRSA) aureus is a group of bacteria separate from the standard staphylococcus aureus bacteria that is much more difficult to treat due to its resistance to anti-biotics.
- Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex virus. Herpes begins as a red, tender, and slightly swollen area on the skin and progresses to clusters of blisters primarily on the face, trunk, or extremities depending on contact with the virus. Early signs of infection include flu-like symptoms such as fever and sore throat. This infection can be a chronic problem as the virus can become dormant and then “reactivate” causing another infection. Should you notice any bumps, sores, or lesions notify medical staff and contact your doctor for treatment. As the infection spread through physical contact, athletes should not participate in games or matches to decrease the spread of the infection.
Ringworm or “Tinea”
- Ringworm or “Tinea” is a fungal infection of the skin. Many kinds of bacteria and fungus live on our skin naturally. This type of infection occurs when a type of fungus grows and multiplies on your skin. This fungus thrives in warm and moist areas and spreads through contact so athletes in contact sports are at an increased risk of infection. This infection is normally apparent as red, itchy, and circular lesions on the skin.
8 ways An Athlete Can Prevent Skin Infections
- Wash your hands using warm soap and water for about 20 seconds. Make sure to wash your entire hand and uses as much friction as you can to kill bacteria and fungus.
- Do not share towels and use clean and dry towels. Wash your clothes and towels often
- Do not share soap, combs, brushes, deodorant, or other personal items coming in contact with your skin
- Shower after each game and practice
- Keep wounds clean and bandaged
- Inform coaches or medical staff of rashes or bumps on the skin.
- Do not pick at rashes, sores, boils, or bumps as any excess is contagious.
- Cleaning and disinfecting of equipment (wrestlers – Always use an EPA-approved disinfectant* (viricidal, fungicidal, bactericidal) OR bleach solution (800 ppm = ¼ c bleach: 1 gallon water). Mix daily to be effective.)
How To Treat A Skin Infection
Antibiotics, antifungal, or antiviral medications would be prescribed depending on the cause of the infection. Typically, medications are topical, but some may be ingested in the form of a pill. MRSA cases call for culture of the bacteria in a lab due to the resistant nature of the bacteria. The culture will ensure appropriate and effective antibiotics are prescribed. If the infection does not clear by following the instructions of your doctor, then reach out to figure out what further steps may be taken.
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