School athletics are an important part of the growing up experience for kids. However, lurking among those piled up wrestling mats and castoff football jerseys lays the potential for a serious skin infection called MRSA, or methicillian-resistant staphylococcus aureus. Parents, coaches and students need to be vigilant in both the identification of a MRSA infection and actions to prevent it from occurring.
What is MRSA?
MRSA is a type of staphylococcus that is resistant to the typical penicillin-based antibiotics used to treat regular “staph” infections. It can become a life threatening infection. Interestingly, it is able to live in the noses and skin of healthy people, 30 percent of whom show no symptoms of having the bacteria. MRSA used to be an infection only found in hospitals but it has now spread to the community, particularly to high school and college athletes.
How does MRSA spread?
“MRSA develops where the '5 Cs' are found”, according to Dr. Kotula in his health blog.
1. Crowding: it occurs where groups are close together such as locker rooms.
2. Contact: it is found in sports where there is skin-to-skin contact.
3. Compromised: it occurs in skin that has been cut or scraped.
4. Contaminated: it grows on surfaces that are unclean.
5. Cleanliness: it can develop on skin that is not washed and covered after an injury.
What to watch for:
Watch for any signs of infection in an area with cuts, scrapes or sores. Look for redness, warmth, swelling, increased pain or yellow drainage. Sometimes small pimple areas are mistaken for spider bites. If you do develop any pus-filled skin lesions, do not squeeze them. See a doctor to have them evaluated. Oral antibiotics will be prescribed if it is thought to be MRSA.
What to do to avoid MRSA infections:
• Wash your hands before and after sports and after using shared equipment. If unable to use soap and water, use alcohol-based hand cleaners containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Shower immediately after exercising. Do not share soap or towels with others. Wash your uniform afterward, dry it thoroughly in a dryer and do not share clothing with others.
• Wear protective gear to help avoid skin injuries and abrasions.
• Lie a towel down as a barrier when using shared equipment such as mats or when sitting on a steam room bench.
A little prevention and good cleaning practices can go a long way in preventing this potentially life threatening infection.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s health care and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles