Staph Infection: A BJJ Fanatic’s Worst Nightmare
Skin infections have become so common in the world of grappling sports that getting a staph infection is like a rite of passage for a bjj fanatic!
The goal of this article is to give you more information about staph infections so that you know how to best treat them, but more importantly to save yourself the trouble by learning how to prevent them from happening.
Keep reading to learn about the differences between a staph infection and MRSA, as well as how to identify when you might need to see a doctor (just a general reminder – if you find something abnormal on your body and you aren’t sure exactly what it is, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a healthcare professional).
Most importantly, this article will provide you with simple yet effective tips on how to avoid staph infections all together so that you can continue living the lifestyle of a bjj fanatic.
What Is a Staph Infection?
A staph infection is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria, and it’s way more common thank you might think.
In fact, about 25% of people carry around staph without having any symptoms of an infection! All it takes is a small cut on the foot, for example, before bacteria find their way through the opening in the skin and into your body.
But not all staph infections look like a giant red puss-filled sack! (Yes, we think that sounds really gross too.)
The truth is that staph infections don’t all look the same. The severity and nature of the infection means that it can range from a small boil to an antibiotic-resistant, flesh-eating disease! (Yes, we think that sounds very scary too!)
Interestingly, claims exist that antibiotic-resistant infections are more common in North America because of our typical overuse of antibiotics. But that’s getting a bit off track.
Now let’s look at the difference between staph and MRSA.
Staph vs MRSA
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an infection caused by staph. Basically, MRSA is a more serious, advanced version of a staph infection.
MRSA infections are very contagious and can spread through direct contact with someone infected (i.e. the life of a bjj fanatic means skin infections are always something to be on the lookout for).
The bacteria make their way into the body through small cuts or breaks in the skin (please go put on a Band-Aid if you have an open wound, no matter how small). This is the main reason why it is so important to wash your gear and that someone cleans the mats after every training session.
Now, it’s important to note that the staph bacteria commonly live on areas of the body like the nose and mouth, but the bacteria are not always necessarily harmful. A problem presents itself when the bacteria multiple uncontrollably, and in the case of MRSA, the solution is not as simple as getting a regular antibiotic prescription from the doctor.
The main difference between Staph and MRSA is that while most staph infections can be treated with common antibiotics, MRSA is resistant to most common forms of antibiotics (specifically, the Methicillin type, hence the name MRSA).
Now that you know the basics of staph and MRSA, here’s how to make sure that pimple or ingrown hair you noticed isn’t something more serious.
What Does a Staph Infection Look Like?
The red, swollen lesions that are characteristic of a staph infection mean that staph is often confused with pimples, ingrown hairs, or other minor skin abnormalities.
Here are a few ways to distinguish between a likely staph infection and an otherwise harmless zit.
- If it looks more like a boil than a pimple, it might be a staph infection.
- If it’s in a weird place where you wouldn’t typically get acne (ie. the back of your knee), it might be a staph infection.
- If it’s located close to or directly on a cut or break in your skin, it might be a staph infection.
- If it won’t respond to typical acne treatments, it might be a staph infection.
- If it’s painful and surrounded by areas of inflammation (i.e. redness, swelling, and/or warmth), it might be a staph infection.
- If your sudden skin abnormality is accompanied by a fever, it might be a staph infection.
As we’ve said already (and we’ll keep saying it):
“When in doubt, get it checked out…by a doctor, or another healthcare professional.”
How to Get Rid of a Staph Infection
The most common treatment for a staph infection involves oral antibiotics. If you are prescribed these, MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THE COMPLETE DOSAGE.
Only taking part of the prescribed dose of antibiotics can result in your body developing a resistance to that treatment. Save yourself the trouble and just follow the directions on the bottle, please.
Serious staph infections call for different types of antibiotics, which must be administered intravenously. This is where things start to get tricky, as a trip to the hospital is usually not something to take lightly.
Lastly (and grossly), if your staph infection becomes big enough and ugly enough, a healthcare professional will have to drain the wound.
Let’s all agree that we don’t want that to happen, and let’s all promise to follow the steps in the next section so we can prevent staph infections before they develop.
How to Prevent a Staph Infection
Common sense is the most valuable tool for preventing staph infections.
Most BJJ fanatics understand how important it is to stay clean, and that means keeping up the basics like showering after training, washing your hands throughout the day, and wearing some kind of footwear when you’re not on the mats (it’s scary how many people still walk around through the changing rooms and in the bathrooms barefoot, only to bring their dirty feet right back onto the mats).
With COVID-19 changing the way we see personal hygiene, there has been a much-needed reminder going around on proper hand-washing practices. Here are the basics:
- Wash with soap.
- Wash for at least 20 seconds.
- Use a towel to turn off the faucet when you’re done.
To keep you fresh, clean, and on the mats, here are two anti-fungal soaps we highly recommend:
There are other factors that can contribute to the likelihood of you developing a staph infection, but the most important ones for a bjj fanatic is to bathe after training, wash your gi, rashguards, and belts (yes, your belt is fabric and can carry bacteria too) regularly, and avoid sharing personal items such as razors, towels, and athletic equipment with others.
You don’t need to wash your hands and bathe 10 times a day to be safe on and off the mats.
But be reasonable and consistent with your hygiene, and if you ever notice anything weird on your skin, play it safe and have it checked out before your return to training.
At the end of the day, it’s as much about protecting your partners’ well-being as it is about looking out for your own health.
Oh, and also, you definitely do not want to be known as the training partner who gave everyone staph!