3 ways to help prevent summertime skin infections

Our top priority is understanding patients’ needs and making the most meaningful impact. Learn about one of the most common infections in the U.S. and three ways to help prevent it during its peak season.

Here’s what you need to know about skin infections and three ways to help prevent them — this summer and all year around.

According to the National Institutes of Health, skin infections are one of the most common types of infections in the U.S. with incidence exceeding other common infections, like urinary tract infections and pneumonia, by several fold.

Studies show that there may be a correlation with higher temperatures and an increased number of skin infections, with late summer being the peak time for occurrence.

It’s important to properly care for even minor wounds and infections so they don’t lead to more complicated acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI), which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines as a bacterial infection of the skin with a lesion size area of at least 75 cm2.

Who’s at risk for skin infections?

Some comorbidities, like diabetes, increase the risk of skin infections, but skin infections are also common among healthy individuals. That’s why it’s important for everyone to be aware of the common signs and best practices to help prevent skin infections.

Skin infections: What to look for

Skin infections happen when a pathogen, like bacteria, infect the skin surface and/or the deep tissue below the skin. These types of infections often lead patients to seek medical care, with severe infections, like ABSSSI, potentially requiring hospitalization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes three common signs of a skin infection:

  • Skin redness
  • Pain, tenderness or warmth when the affected skin is touched
  • Swelling of the affected area

Here’s what you need to know about skin infections and three ways to help prevent them — this summer and all year around.

3 ways to help prevent skin infections

Wash hands regularly with soap and water

Contact with high-touch surfaces, like door handles and light switches, can lead to the spread of bacteria that cause skin infections. One of the best ways to help prevent bacteria from spreading is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. To effectively clean hands, make sure to create a lather with the soap, then rub hands together for 20 seconds and rinse with water.

You might also want to take note of the type of soap you’re using. Outside of the healthcare environment, it’s generally not recommended to use antibacterial hand soaps that contain an antibiotic called triclosan. It is thought that these soaps may contribute to antibiotic resistance, which means that antibiotics aren’t as effective against infections.

If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after coming in contact with high-touch surfaces.

Practice good bathing hygiene

Make sure to clean your body regularly with soap, especially after exercise or any activity that causes sweating. It’s also a best practice to avoid sharing towels, razors or bars of soap with others — even family members you live with.

We all have bacteria on our skin at all times, and sometimes that bacteria won’t cause an infection for one person but will for others. If you’re in a communal environment, like a college dorm, summer camp or gym, it’s important to be extra vigilant and avoid sharing personal items that you use directly on your skin. That’s one way to help prevent skin infections or spreading bacteria that could cause an infection for someone else.

Keep cuts, scrapes and wounds clean and covered

Open wounds are an opportunity for bacteria to enter the skin and cause an infection, so proper wound care is critical. Mayo Clinic recommends washing the injury daily with soap and water, applying a protective ointment like petroleum jelly, and covering the wound with a sterile bandage.

For people with diabetes or poor circulation, it’s not uncommon to get a cut on the foot or leg without realizing it. It’s recommended to take extra precautions and examine the feet and legs regularly to make sure you’re aware of cuts and scrapes as well as properly treating open wounds to help prevent infection.

Seeking medical help

If you think you might have a skin infection, it’s important to seek care from a medical provider as early as possible. Early detection can help prevent ABSSSI or ensure proper care if you do have ABSSSI.

To learn more about skin infections and prevention, check out these resources:

NIH: Acute Skin Infections

CDC: Skin Infections

Mayo Clinic: Cellulitis