Athletics provide many benefits for children, including the opportunity to make new friends, build up their strength and live a healthy lifestyle. However, child athletes also face risks. While parents may be aware of the risk of injury that comes with playing sports, an overlooked risk is actually more common: skin infections.
Sports-related skin infections may result in kids missing out on playing time and suffering from painful, unpleasant health conditions. Parents need to know about the symptoms of six common childhood sports infections so they can take preventive measures and obtain treatment if necessary.
Common in all sports
Appears as discoloration of the nail
Onychomycosis, a fungal infection, commonly occurs when feet are infected in showers or on pool decks. As fungus grows under or near the toenails, the infection spreads to the nail causing discoloration and thickening.
Except for in the pool, child athletes should wear shoes at all times to prevent this condition. Children should be taught to thoroughly wash their feet and nails and to keep feet dry. Oral and topical anti-fungal treatments can be used to treat this infection, for example fungus shield plus is a perfect solution for this infections.
Common in wrestling
Appears as circular with an empty center skin lesions
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection that easily spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Experts speculate that it is spread mainly by scalp contact; however, as the infection spreads on the skin, any skin-to-skin contact can be risky. Ringworm lesions look similar to acne or a small rash when spreading.
Ringworm treatment begins with prevention. Children should avoid skin-to-skin contact with those that are diagnosed with ringworm or other skin infections. They should be taught not to share athletic clothing, such as hats and helmets, and to wipe down gym equipment after using it. Wrestlers and other athletic children should shower right after their workout or competition and use a sports body wash and shampoo. In severe cases, pharmacological treatment may be necessary.
3. Athlete’s Foot
Common in all sports, especially soccer and football
Appears as dry, cracking and itching skin
Moisture and heat from sweat are often trapped in the socks and shoes of young athletes, resulting in the growth of fungi. The condition called “athlete’s foot” causes the skin on the feet to dry out and crack.
Athlete’s foot is best dealt by prevention and thorough washing of the skin. Children prone to having sweaty feet should wear moisture-wicking socks while regularly changing and cleaning their shoes and socks.
4. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
Common in skiing, wrestling and rugby
Appears as a red, raised rash
The Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a virus that can infect the skin. Presented as a red, raised rash, HSV often burns and tingles when initially contracted. It can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or by ultraviolet radiation exposure.
Oral medications are used to treat cases of HSV. To help minimize the spread of this virus, any lesions should be cleaned with soap and water and then bandaged with dry, clean dressings. If the lesion cannot be adequately covered, the athlete should not participate in skin-to-skin contact sports or be allowed in pools.
5. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Common in all sports, especially swimming
Appears as warts
Contracted by a disproportionate number of athletes, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can manifest as warts. These warts can be painful and typically feature small, black dots due to minor hemorrhaging under the skin. HPV is contagious and many athletes contract it as a result of skin-to-skin contact and showering with bare feet in locker rooms.
The virus is eliminated with the aid of oral medication. Warts resulting from HPV may require topical treatment, freezing or removal.
6. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
Common in all sports, especially contact sports like soccer and football
Appears as boils or as red, painful skin lesions that can expand over a few hours or days
A form of a staph infection, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that can result in boils, rashes and fever. A skin infection and fever is an ominous sign that must be evaluated by a physician. A MRSA skin infection can advance rapidly and should be treated with urgency. To prevent MRSA, child athletes should not be allowed to share towels and other personal items while dealing with cuts and scrapes urgently.
MRSA is commonly treated with antibiotics, and in some circumstances surgery, but can be minimized by showering within one hour of sports.
A Dermatologist’s Advice to Parents
According to Dr. Mark Jackson, Clinical Professor of Medicine and Dermatology at University of Louisville “children and teenagers who play sports, especially contact sports, should be taught to shower within one hour of sports activity. Also, for those participating in contact sports, like wrestling and football and those with a history of a skin infections, I recommend using CLn® SportWash in the shower.” He also suggests that “parents should address signs and symptoms of an infection early and seek medical attention to avoid complications.”
About the author: A lifelong learner, Bethany McIlrath is curious by nature. She researches and writes about diverse topics, including healthy living.