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Score a Win Over Skin Infections

Whether you’re a student-athlete training for a championship season or working out to stay healthy and fit, skin infections are a downside to exercise that can leave you sidelined.

Skin-to-skin contact, sweaty workout clothes and equipment, and steamy locker rooms are breeding grounds for viral, fungal and bacterial skin infections that can spread like a juicy rumor on social media.

The Most Common Skin Infections

Good hygiene is the best defense against contracting skin infections. When hygiene takes a timeout, three common infections like come out to play.

Herpes Gladiatorum

You’ll know this herpes simplex virus by its cluster of fluid-filled blisters that can show up for up to a few weeks after initial contact. Spread by skin-to-skin contact, the virus makes wrestlers particularly prone to it. It usually takes four to five days of treatment with a prescription antiviral medication before an athlete can return to practice and competition.


This bacterial infection causes a sore that’s sometimes fluid-filled, with a honey-colored scab. The sores may not be painful, but they’re often itchy. And there’s the rub — touching or scratching can spread the infection. A prescription ointment or oral antibiotics are the standard treatment.


This highly contagious fungal infection (it’s not actually a worm!) can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. But the fungus also loves to hang out in warm, dark and moist places like gym bags, sweaty clothing and locker rooms. Characterized by raised red bumps, usually in circular form (hence the name), ringworm requires an antifungal medication, not an antibiotic. An over-the-counter cream usually clears it up, although severe cases may need a prescription from your doctor.

You Can Prevent Skin Infections

It’s easier than you think to keep skin infections at bay. All it takes is a few simple steps you’ve probably already heard from (or said as) a mother.

  • Soap up—Work up a sweat? Shower with soap and water after. And in between, wash your hands regularly.
  • Don’t share—Keep your soap, towels and razors to yourself.
  • Wipe down—Clean gear and equipment like pads, helmets, mats and weight machines with a bleach solution or antibacterial wipes or sprays.
  • Keep trimmed—Avoid making and having open cuts and scratches with long fingernails.
  • Hands off—Picking, scratching or squeezing sores can spread their infectious fluids.

See a Doctor

Skin infections can take out an entire team if they’re not shut down. If you have an infection, you shouldn’t be practicing, competing or working out with equipment used by others until the sores have healed or are no longer infectious. That’s why a doctor is your best bet for determining the most effective treatment.

We’re Here to Help

Skin infections are short-lived with the right treatment. That’s why it’s better to have an iffy rash checked out early on. OhioHealth Sports Medicine specialists provide the diagnosis and treatment to get you back in the game quickly. Call 614-566-4263 or visit OhioHealth.com/SportsMedicine to learn more.


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