School sports infections are an unfortunate reality for many parents. Gymnasts, in particular, are vulnerable to skin infections that can be both painful and embarrassing. Thankfully, there are a few things that parents can do to prevent infections in their budding athletes:
Treat Rips With Care
A rip is an inevitable part of gymnastics. These painful injuries occur when the skin on the palm of the hand begins to tear away from the skin. No two rips are the same – some may be shallow and long, while others short and deep. They may only compromise one layer of skin, or several. How you take care of rips when they occur may affect your child’s chance of getting an infection.
Our skin has the amazing ability to heal itself, but keeping your child’s wound clean is an essential part of gymnastics infection prevention. Encourage your child to wash his or her hands frequently. Cleanse the area and apply a triple antibiotic ointment after practices to encourage healing and prevent infection. During practice, cover the rips with “new skin,” or a gel layer that forms a barrier over the wound to prevent germs from penetrating.
Practice Good Hygiene, on the Mats and Off
Gymnastics mats can harbor a host of dangerous germs, from MRSA (antibiotic-resistant staph) to bacteria and viruses. Wash your gymnast’s clothing as soon as they return home from practice, and wash their bag periodically to prevent germ build-up. Have your athlete take a shower immediately after practices and meets.
Finally, speak with the coaches about their hygiene policy. It’s essential that they clean mats after each practice with a disinfecting formula. Consider organizing parents to volunteer to take turns cleaning mats if the coaching staff is overwhelmed or short-staffed.
Preventing Fungal Infections
While athletes can spread viral or bacterial skin infections, fungal infections are also common. Fungi tend to grow in moist, dark areas, so athletes who sweat can be vulnerable. Common fungal infections in athletes include ringworm, jock itch, and athlete’s foot. These fungi typically spread through skin-to-skin contact, but may also spread through towels or mats that absorb them.
Fortunately, parents can often effectively treat fungal infections with over-the-counter products. A visit to your pediatrician may be order when these formulations prove ineffective. Athletes should avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing while the infection is present and being sure to dry the skin thoroughly after bathing.
Gymnastics infection control is essential to keeping your athlete performing at his or her best. By preventing infection, you can reduce the number of practices and meets your child misses, while preventing pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. Your child has needs to shower frequently and wash their clothes after each practice, but coaches should also be providing a hygienic practice environment. By practicing good hygiene both on the mats and off, athletes can prevent skin infections that keep them away from practice. Remember, it’s much easier to prevent infections than treat them later.