Touchdowns, Take-downs, and Toddler Tussles

A contagious skin infection that was once thought of as primarily limited to hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes is now showing up in healthy children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These skin infections are caused by tough-to-treat bacteria called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, or resistant staph). As the name implies, antibiotics are not always effective at treating the infections, especially once they have spread too far in the body.

Most of these infections are mild, but some do progress to become extremely serious. They typically start out looking like a simple pimple, boil, or infected wound, but they might start to worsen with symptoms such as fever, pus, swelling, or pain. Rugby and RugratsRecently a rugby team shared this rash.

The biggest clusters of MRSA infections in children have been among students involved in competitive sports (such as fencing or football) where they might share equipment, or in sports (such as football or wrestling) where they have skin-to-skin contact. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) sent out a warning letter about MRSA to its members on October 14, 2003.

Although high school athletes have been the biggest focus of concern, high school students and athletes are not the only children at risk. Daycare – A Contact Sport with Shared EquipmentParents, kids, coaches – and yes, also daycare workers – should be aware of the possibility of serious skin infections and be on the lookout for any worsening skin problems.

The CDC recommends a number of measures for preventing MSRA infections, including attention to hand hygiene (use soap and water or alcohol based instant hand sanitizers), cleaning shared equipment (towels, helmets, or toys), covering cuts and scrapes with protective bandages until healed, covering possible infections with bandages, excluding from play those whose wounds or infections cannot be covered, and reporting to a healthcare provider any wound that is slow to heal or that appears infected.

Published on: October 15, 2003
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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