A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Molluscum contagiosum: Skin infections in athletes

Skin problems like molluscum contagiosum are some of the more common issues faced by athletes in any sport. Some skin infections can keep the athletes from the field, court or mat of play. In many cases, good sports hygiene and early appropriate at-home intervention can help minimize the interruptions in the athlete’s sport season.

Dr. Erik Stratman, dermatologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System, discusses some of the warning signs that an athlete may be experiencing a communicable skin disease and offers some tips on early recognition, prevention strategies and at home supplemental care tips to get the athlete back to competition as soon as possible.

Since official return-to-play recommendations can change over time, please refer to the current WIAA guidelines for treatment requirements and durations of treatment necessary for an athlete to return to the sport.

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum results in little itchy bumps caused by a virus, and commonly occurs in contact sports where skin-on-skin contact occurs. The little lesions may look a lot like blisters but in fact they are not. They are often shiny with a little dimple in the center and filled with a cheesy core. That is where thousands of viral particles are living. Scratching them is usually  how the infection spreads. One of the quickest ways to destroy them with a small sharp instrument called a curette or cold spray liquid nitrogen cryotherapy. Both of these options are provided in a doctor’s office.

Locker room where there are concerns of skin infections such as molluscum contagiosum

Some skin infections can keep athletes from the field, court or mat of play.

There are at-home ways to manage and prevent the spread of molluscum. First, try and avoid vigorous scratching at the lesions because this is a key way in which the virus spreads. Also, avoid shaving over the areas if they are located where a person would normally shave.

Over-the-counter treatments are possible and have been studied. Applying an over-the-counter 10% benzoyl peroxide acne gel to the lesions can cause enough reaction to eventually see them resolve with no medical treatment.

Another tip for at-home care of molluscum is to tape the top of the lesions. Using the sticky side of regular clear cellophane tape, a person can repeatedly cover the lesions. The sticky tape causes an inflammatory reaction in the molluscum which leads to eventual inflammation and resolution, like the acne gel.

Prevention of molluscum can best be accomplished by avoiding direct skin-on-skin contact with a person infected with molluscum lesions. Molluscum affects people of all ages and is not just spread among athletes with direct skin-on-skin contact.

Contact your primary care provider if you have any additional questions about skin infections.

For skin infection help, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Message your provider

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