For lots of students, “heading back to school” also means heading back to the field. While sports help keep students’ health in check, did you know that bacteria on towels and sports gear can cause dangerous infections and illness? (1) This is why it’s important that parents remind their children about sports hygiene and the medical risks that could follow.
Sports Hygiene tips for a safe season
>> What types of skin rashes and infections are most common in athletes?
We can generally spot a range of infections such as:
- Fungal infections (such as athlete’s foot) (2).
- Viral skin conditions (such as warts or rashes seen with hand/foot/mouth disease).
- Bacterial infections that include MRSA, which are known to spread by towels and artificial turf.
>> What are basic hygiene rules that student-athletes should know when training to avoid the spread and contact with bacteria?
- Avoid sharing towels with teammates
- Wipe down equipment at the gym before and after each use
- Avoid sharing sports gear such as: helmets, shoulder pads, or uniforms
- Wash hands frequently and shower after training
>> Why should athletes avoid sharing towels?
While sharing towels is often an easy and convenient way to dry off, damp towels can spread infection from one athlete to another, and can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Students should avoid repeated use of the same towel and make sure that they are washed between each use.
>> Can showers protect against infections related to sports hygiene?
Yes. Showering immediately after training can help decrease the risk of many common skin irritations and infections. Wearing shower shoes or flip flops can help protect against commonly seen skin conditions like “athlete’s foot” (3).
>> What is the safest clothing to wear for playing sports?
Athletes should wear light colored, loose fitting clothing made from moisture wicking fabrics that will help skin stay dry and minimize chafing. Clothes with UV protection can also protect against sunburn and skin cancer. Don’t forget to grab a hat and sunglasses if possible!
>> When should parents seek professional treatment for a rash they notice on their child?
While many of these conditions can be prevented or avoided, when they do arise, parents should consult a doctor if their child is experiencing the following symptoms:
- Open skin lesions with redness, swelling, or drainage
- Blisters that look like they are filled with pus
- Fevers, chills, dizziness, swollen glands or other flu-like symptoms, which may be signs of a more serious infection.
Make sure you help your athletes stay healthy by adding simple sports hygiene habits to their daily routine. Healthy sports habits along with cleaning sports gear on a regular basis is your best defense against bacteria and infection.
(2) Athlete’s foot
Dr. Korin Hudson, Sports Medicine Physician with MedStar Health