Five minute read

Skin infections are caused by the growth of bacteria or microorganisms just under the skin and enter through minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes and blisters. In general, these infections remain fairly mild and can often be cured by topical solutions. However, there are cases where skin infections can become increasingly painful and dangerous, especially if left untreated.

Types of Infections

In order to be on the lookout for infection, you have to know the basic tips on how to avoid and treat them. First, let’s look at the different types of skin infections.

  • Bacterial – bacterial infections are common and often appear as bumps on the skin that increase in size over time. Some can be easily treated with antibiotics, while others require more intense care.
  • Viral – viral skin infections are caused by a virus and can range from mild to severe and dangerous.
  • Fungal – fungal infections generally begin in damp areas of the body and are spread by physical contact.
  • Parasitic – parasitic infections are caused by parasites, that sometimes can spread to the bloodstream and organs from the skin. Some can be difficult to diagnose.

Signs and Symptoms

The function of your skin is to protect the insides of your body from infection. But what happens when the skin itself gets an infection? There are several over-the-counter medications you can use, but others require medical attention. Some infections may be more severe than others, but how can you tell?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to visit your physician:

  • Fever
  • Pus or discharge
  • Red/darkening skin changes
  • Yellowish crust
  • Sores or blisters
  • Skin breakdown or ulcers
  • Rash on mucosal surfaces
  • Swelling, warmth or pain

Steps for Prevention

Pediatrics
Children are naturally at risk for skin infections because they come into contact with a great deal of carriers. As a parent or guardian, it is important to take preventative steps to ensure that small infections do not become dangerous.

Most importantly, make sure that your child washes their hands as often as possible, especially before and after playing and before eating. Apart from standard bodily care, be sure that your child changes out their personal hygiene products regularly. This includes toothbrushes, hairbrushes, washcloths, towels, etc. You should also cut or file your child’s fingernails often, as they are a common site for bacteria.

If your children love to play outside, bug spray or other insect repellent may be worth the purchase. While it is not a huge concern if your child comes home with a mosquito bite, it is important to check the site regularly and treat with over-the-counter medications that will stop the itching and irritation. If the small bump and pinkness turn into swelling or redness, visit your pediatrician for further medical attention.

Athletes
Skin infections often affect athletes involved in high-contact sports. Between element exposure and physical contact, athletes are prime targets for both viral and fungal skin infections. Luckily, spread of these infections can be reduced by following a few simple steps.

Typically, athletes should not participate in sporting activities if they have a contagious infection. At the very least, all skin lesions or concerning areas should be covered. Further, they should avoid sharing uniforms or practice gear. It is also important to keep equipment as clean as possible to prevent infection. Sports gear and gym bags are not always washed or disinfected as regularly as they should be and can gather a variety of bacteria.

If you are a gym-goer, make sure you use fresh towels and always wipe down your equipment. Always wear shoes and socks to your workout sessions and wash your hands before and after you utilize the equipment.

Home and Workplace
While skin infections are common in children, adults can contract infections as well. You may think that you are not at risk for skin infections because you keep things very clean, but it is also important to take extra preventative steps at home and at work.

Infections frequently spread in areas where moisture is present. In order to avoid them, be sure to clean up any damp areas of the house regularly. This includes areas such as laundry rooms, kitchen counters, bathtubs, showers and around any faucets or sinks. Try using disposable wipes instead of towels or washcloths in your bathroom so the moisture does not have a chance to settle.

In the workplace, dirt and bacteria can settle on your keyboard, phone or old files easily, so it is important to keep your work area clean by periodically dusting your desk and the surrounding area. Be careful when sharing personal items with coworkers or other family members, as you may come into contact with an existing infection without realizing it. Even with family members, it is important to be cautious about sharing water bottles, utensils, etc. To be safe, wipe down and clean your personal items frequently to decrease the risk of an infection.

Your personal hygiene is also important. To decrease the health risks for yourself and those you come in contact with, be sure to shower daily and utilize antibacterial sanitizers regularly. Wearing closed-toe shoes in public areas can also minimize the risk of infection.

Take Infections Seriously!

Believe it or not, there are several strategies that you can use to combat skin infections. No matter your age or physical activity level, it is important to remember the following four main steps to preventing skin infections:

  • Hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly
  • Skin Protection – protect your skin from the elements
  • Environmental Cleaning – keep your work and home clean
  • Contact Precautions – avoid contact with those who have a skin infection

Infections are not a joke and need to be cared for properly. By spotting these possible threats, you can help eliminate infections in your life. When in doubt, our physicians at MemorialCare are happy to help.

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