Skin Infections: Prevention and Disinfection

There are many steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of skin infections. The easiest and most effective way is to practice good personal hygiene habits, like showering, and washing clothing and bedding regularly.

After skin infections have been identified, it is important to properly clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment to prevent the infection from spreading to others.

 

Bucket of cleaning products being carried

 Skin Infection Prevention

General Prevention

Practicing proper hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent skin infections in the community and in school and day care settings.

  • Wash your hands often and properly.
  • Wash scrapes, cuts, wounds, or insect bites right away.
  • Do not share items, such as towels, razors, bar soap, clothes, or toys.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has a skin infection.
  • Cover any skin infections with a bandage after skin is clean and dry.
  • Clean any shared toys, bedding, or changing tables.
  • Use gloves and wash your hands after changing any dressings.
  • Throw away the bandages and gloves in the garbage.

Prevention in Athletics

The following are some steps that athletes can take to prevent getting and spreading skin infections.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts or pants, if possible, to limit skin-to-skin contact.
  • Practice proper hygiene:
    • Shower right after practice and games.
    • Wash uniforms and practice clothes after each use, and only wear clean clothes.
    • Do not share personal items, such as gear, towels, or bar soap.
  • Require athletes to report infections and wounds to coaching staff or athletic trainers as soon as possible. Refer athletes with wounds or lesions to health care providers.
  • For single cases of skin infections that are not part of a larger outbreak, clean and cover injured skin with a clean bandage that completely covers the infected area and stays on during the entire game or practice.
  • During an illness cluster, athletes should be examined daily by athletic trainers. Trainers, nurses, or health care providers should keep track of cases and dates of when the symptoms began.

Excluding an Athlete from Practice or Competition

It is important to exclude athletes with skin infections from practice and competitions when appropriate to prevent the infection spreading to others.

An athlete should be excluded from competition or practice when:

  • The athlete has a wound or lesion that looks infected (pus, red, swollen) and participates in a sport with skin-to-skin contact.
  • The wound or lesion cannot be completely covered with a bandage that will stay on during activity.
  • The athlete also shows other signs of illness, such as fever or vomiting.
  • Multiple athletes have similar symptoms.

Exclusion can be hard on an athlete, but it will minimize long-term disruption to the team and season.

An athlete can return to competition or practice when:

  • Wounds or lesions have completely scabbed over.
  • The athlete has been on appropriate antibiotic or antiviral therapy for the recommended timeframe.

Consult with the athlete's doctor and specific sports league rules for more information.

 Disinfection of Surfaces and Equipment

Disinfection of Surfaces

  • Clean surfaces with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants. These disinfectants are proven to remove infectious organisms, including MRSA, from the environment.
  • Read the instruction labels on all cleaners to make sure they are used safely and appropriately. Follow drying time recommendations.
  • Do not use environmental cleaners and disinfectants on skin.
  • Focus on cleaning surfaces that touch bare skin and could come into contact with uncovered skin infections, such as:
    • Benches in weight or locker rooms
    • Taping tables
  • Large surfaces, such as floors and walls, have not been shown to cause the spread of staph and MRSA.

Disinfection of Equipment

  • Clean shared equipment that comes into contact with skin after each use and allow to dry.
  • Clean equipment, such as helmets and protective gear, according to the equipment manufacturers' instructions.
  • Read the instruction labels on all cleaners to make sure they are used safely and appropriately. Follow drying time recommendations.
  • Do not use environmental cleaners and disinfectants on skin.

 Resources

Last Revised: September 27, 2019