Strep Throat and Impetigo

Wrestling season can be cold, in more ways than one

The typical folkstyle wrestling season falls between November and March. So, on top of our busy work and school schedules, grueling practices, and traveling around the country, many of us must deal with cold winters throughout the entire duration of the wrestling season. It’s bad enough having to bundle up in four layers to walk to class or drive through the eye of a polar vortex to make it to weigh-ins in that small, rural Midwest town, but one of the most difficult challenges during the winter is having to protect ourselves from colds and flus that tend to be more prevalent during this time.

Strep throat and impetigo
The stress of training and improper nutrition during wrestling season can sometimes weaken our immune systems and leave us even more susceptible to common sicknesses during cold and flu season. One of these afflictions that affects a lot of us during this time is strep throat. Normally, we don’t think much of this common bacterial infection and take an antibiotic for a few days for treatment. However, not many parents and coaches know that the bacteria (streptococcus pyogenes) that causes strep throat is the same one responsible for impetigo, a common skin infection that affects wrestlers. Additionally, those with impetigo are also at high risk for developing strep throat.

Skin funk can be gross
Impetigo begins as a cluster of small blisters that expand and rupture within the first 24 hours of infection. Thin yellow fluid that drains from the ruptured blisters quickly dries forming a honey-colored crust. Impetigo may develop up to 10 days after the skin becomes infected with the bacteria and is most common in settings with close person-to-person contact like a wrestling practice.

Prevention through healthy skin
The most important piece of information to know in preventing impetigo is that it can ONLY attack damaged skin. Damaged skin is defined as any of the following:

  • Dry skin
  • Cracked skin
  • Mat burns
  • Pimples
  • Scrapes and scratches

Make sure you are paying special attention to damaged skin and treating it as such with prompt attention. Simple cleanliness and hygiene with safe and effective soaps that promote healthy skin flora reduce our risk from infection. Yes, antibacterial soaps are designed to protect against impetigo, but using just an antibacterial soap alone will not protect you from fungus, which can lead to ringworm. Showering immediately after practice will drastically reduce the risk of skin infections including impetigo. Additionally, make sure you are keeping sick wrestlers away from your room to prevent the spread of the streptococcus bacteria. Wrestlers that have been infected with impetigo should be treated with an oral antibiotic or by the application of a topical antibiotic ointment.