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How Athletes Can Prevent Skin Problems And Infections

Updated on January 16, 2016
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Athletes know how important it is to keep their bones and muscles healthy. Dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) say that checking and taking care of their skin is also important.

Athletes who use sports equipment can be prone to skin infections because equipment provides a moist, warm, and dark environment that promotes the growth of skin infections.

Impetigo
Impetigo | Source

Protective pads and helmets, and gym shoes are especially fertile breeding grounds for germs that cause skin infections.

Moist environments such as locker rooms, shower stalls, and swimming pool decks can have fungal infections such as athletes foot that can be picked up while people are barefoot.

Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum Contagiosum | Source

Skin problems are caused by bacteria, fungi, and bacteria and can also spread to others, especially during contact sports or training. Many athletes get fungal infections such as ringworm, athletes foot, and jock itch. They show up as an itchy, scaly rash that can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams.

Fungal Infections
Viral Infections
Bacterial Infections
Athlete's Foot
Molluscum Contagiosum - causes pearl-like bumps (papules) on the skin
Boils A boil is a skin infection that starts in a hair follicle or oil gland, the skin turns red in the area of the infection, and a tender lump develops, after 4 to 7 days, the lump starts turning white as pus collects under the skin
Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)
Chickenpox - characterized by an itchy red rash
Carbuncles - red, swollen, and painful cluster of boils that are connected under the skin
Fungal nail infections
Shingles - a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox
Impetigo - a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that can appear anywhere on the body but usually attacks exposed areas
Ringworm (also known as Tinea) a superficial skin infection
 
Leprosy Staph Infection and Cellulitis - an infection usually begins with a little cut which becomes infected
Sporotrichosis - a mold found on certain vegetation and in soil
 
Pilonidal Cyst and Abscess - occurs at the bottom of the tailbone (coccyx) and can become infected and full of pus
 
 
Staph Infection and Cellulitis - begins with a little cut which gets infected with bacteria
 
 
 

Signs of skin infections

The skin may burn, itch, or may become infected. AAD recommends that athletes with skin problems see a sports medicine doctor or a board-certified dermatologist if these signs appear. Skin infections can potentially take an athlete out of a game for days, weeks or months.

Strategies to prevent skin problems and infections

These tips for athletes, athletic trainers, and coachers can help prevent skin infections.

Keep the skin clean. Hands should be washed regularly to prevent the spread of skin conditions. Cuts and scrapes can weaken the skin’s defense system and allow germs that cause infections to enter the skin.

They should be covered with bandage until the wound has healed. Abrasions can be treated by cleansing with an antibacterial cleanser or mild soap, applying a zinc ointment, and covering the area with a bandage.

Protect areas that tend to blister. Areas that routinely blister should be protected by a gel, pad, or spray. The hands, ankles, and feet are especially vulnerable. Specialized gloves can help the hands. Feet can be protected with socks, two pairs of socks, and footwear that fits properly.

When blisters occur, they need to be covered by a donut-shaped pad or a loose bandage. If they must be drained, a sterilized needle can be used to poke a small hole at an edge, and then the liquid can be pushed out the hole. The area should be cleaned and covered with gauze to prevent infection.

Keep the skin dry. One way to keep germs from growing is to keep the athlete’s skin dry. Wearing moisture-wicking clothes helps. These clothes may be marked as "premium moisture management" and are designed to keep athletes dry. Moisturizers should be applied right after a shower while the skin is still damp.

Prevent chafing. Chafing happens when clothing constantly rubs against the skin. Chafing is common during running, biking, or working out. Petroleum jelly in areas such as the inner thighs or Hydrocortisone cream can help prevent skin irritation. Specialized clothing such as elasticized shorts can be also helpful.

Wear sandals or other shoes in the locker room. The sandals reduce exposure to foot infections.

Shower after every practice and game. Athletes should wash their entire bodies with an antimicrobial soap. Flip flops should be worn in the shower stall. A clean towel should be used after showering. Athletes should use their own personal items such as soaps, towels, and razors. These items should never be shared with others.

Bring extra clothing. Athletes should shower and change clothes immediately after vigorous physical activity. Time should not be spent in wet or sweaty clothing that could irritate the skin or cause friction that creates blisters.

Wash towels and clothes after each use. Dermatologists recommend that sports bags also be washed so that the germs in the bags cannot grow.

Disinfect equipment and protective gear daily. Athletes should check the manufacturers’ instructions on how to disinfect equipment properly.

Flip flops
Flip flops | Source

Wear sandals or other shoes in the locker room. The sandals reduce exposure to foot infections.

Shower after every practice and game. Athletes should wash their entire bodies with an antimicrobial soap. Flip flops should be worn in the shower stall. A clean towel should be used after showering. Athletes should use their own personal items such as soaps, towels, and razors. These items should never be shared with others.

Bring extra clothing. Athletes should shower and changes clothes after vigorous physical activity. Time should not be spent in wet or sweaty clothing that could irritate the skin or cause friction that creates blisters.

Wash towels and clothes after each use. Dermatologists recommend that sports bags be washed so that germs in the bags cannot grow.

Disinfect equipment and protective gear daily. Athletes should check the manufacturers’ instructions on how to disinfect equipment properly.

Preventing athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that most people contract from walking barefoot in moist public places such as locker rooms or swimming pool decks. The condition may result in cracking or flaky skin, and itchiness between the toes and on the soles of the feet. The tips above can prevent this condition, along with these measures:

  • Shower every day and dry feet thoroughly afterwards to keep them dry
  • Wear flip flops or sandals on hot days
  • Wear socks of natural fabrics or fabrics that dry quickly
  • Change socks every day - more often if socks become wet
  • Alternate the shoes worn every day, if possible, so that the shoes are dry when they are put on

Inform medical staff if self-administered treatments are not working. Health care professionals should be encouraged to take bacterial cultures to establish a diagnosis.

Use prescribed medications as instructed. Skin medications should be applied right after cleansing.

When cream is applied near the eyes, the ring finger should be used. This finger is the weakest digit and will not pull too hard on this delicate area.

Check the skin regularly. Athletes, particularly those in high-risk sports such as wrestling, should look for changes in the skin such as cuts, pus, redness, sores, and swelling.

Never use bleach or sandpaper to pass a skin check. These methods can cause more damage to the skin, keeping an athlete on the bench and out of action for a longer period.

© 2014 Carola Finch

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