During the winter months, as children engage in indoor sports and play, you might notice the spread of rashes and other skin infections increase. While rarely serious, these illnesses can prove to be both annoying and painful. The most common infections seen this time of year are ringworm, impetigo, and herpes, all of which are contagious and can spread quickly in close quarters. Luckily, with the correct diagnosis, most of these rashes can be treated with ease.
The Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) provides a release form detailing their guidelines on these conditions and how long it may take for a wrestler to return should they get one of these conditions.
One of the most notorious rashes, especially for wrestlers and gymnasts, is ringworm. Ringworm is a fungal infection that normally causes ringed lesions on a person’s skin. This type of rash can be passed via contact with an infected person or animal, or even through shared surfaces, such as shower stalls or locker room floors. Fungal infections are treated most generally with topical creams, although occasionally you may need oral medications if lesions are particularly bad. For athletes, it is recommended that oral or topical treatment be used for 3 days for skin infections or 14 days for scalp infections before returning to practice and competition.
Another easily spread skin infection is herpes, specifically HSV-1. This condition causes painful blisters, commonly known as cold sores, to form near the lips and inside the mouth. In particularly bad cases, HSV-1 can also cause sores on the skin, known as herpes gladiatorum. These sores can present anywhere on the body. Both types of lesions caused by HSV-1 are spread through direct contact and tend to be contagious for long periods of time. Since they are caused by a virus, the only treatment available is anti-viral medication. Typically, a wrestler or gymnast should be treated as infectious for a minimum of 10 days following a first-time diagnosis of HSV-1, or after 120 hours of oral anti-viral treatment for recurring diagnoses.
If neither of these rashes defines what you’re seeing on your winter athlete, you may be dealing with impetigo. Impetigo is a skin infection that develops when bacteria enters cuts, scrapes, or other abrasions. This ailment is very easily spread and causes areas of bumps and blisters that scab over with honey-colored crusts. Mild infections are treated with topical antibiotic ointments, but severe cases usually require oral antibiotics that are taken over a period of 7 to 10 days. The best way for a wrestler or gymnast to prevent impetigo is to wash hands frequently and, prior to working out, clean mats and other surfaces with an alcohol-based cleanser. If a diagnosis of impetigo is made, it is recommended that an athlete refrains from practicing or competing until they have gone 48 hours without new lesions forming and they have been on antibiotics for at least three days.
Keeping your kids healthy during the winter can be taxing. If you notice a rash, the best thing you can do is seek treatment with a healthcare provider. This will help keep the length of infection shorter, stop the spread of illness quicker, and get your child back in the game sooner. By visiting your healthcare provider, you will be able to start appropriate treatment and will know exactly when your child is safe to return to school and sports. If you need treatment immediately for a skin infection and can’t get into your primary doctor, please stop by your local Twin Rivers Urgent Care where we will be happy to get you taken care of!