Are Athletes at Increased Risk for MRSA Infections?

Q: Are athletes at an increased risk for MRSA infections?
– Amy R.

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D.

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D.

A:  Anyone can get a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, but the problem is more common among athletes involved in contact sports.

MRSA is a type of staph infection resistant to most, but not all, antibiotics. It often begins as a skin boil that can cause redness, swelling, pain and drainage at the infection site. If  left untreated, the infection can lead to more serious problems affecting the skin and other organs.

MRSA can spread through skin-to-skin contact, by touching a surface someone with MRSA has touched, or by sharing a personal item with an infected person. Athletes should follow these safety tips to prevent the spread of these infections:

  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage.
  • Don’t participate in athletics until infections heal or can be covered adequately.
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Shower with soap, hot water and clean towels after all practices and competitions.
  • Don’t share towels, clothing or personal items such as razors.
  • Clean athletic equipment regularly.
  • Learn how to recognize potential skin infections and alert coaches or athletic trainers if you have any concerns.

Contact your child’s health care provider if a skin infection does not get better.

– Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., division director of Infectious Diseases at Children’s and professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology at UT Southwestern

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