• When the gym kit goes bad…

    Would you ever suspect your child’s gym kit to cause problems? In an age where many comments are being made in the media about us being too clean, one cautionary tale that comes to mind is the story of a rather nasty skin infection that ran rife round a friend’s school.

    One person was in contact with a friend who had a nasty skin infection that took a while to cure. In the meantime, a scratch on her arm suddenly became very red and itchy, and then spread rapidly to the rest of her arm and alarmingly to other parts of the body. Other children at the school had the same thing, and it turned out that they were all sharing gym kit – children get in to trouble for failing to bring in their full kit, so lots of borrowing goes on. In sweaty dirty gym kit, bacteria could clearly thrive, and some of these were not very nice at all!

    Not only that, but it turned out that the affected children had to be treated with a number of different antibiotics before the infection was cured, indicating that the causative organism was resistant to treatment. Dressings impregnated with iodine seemed particularly helpful.

    And then there was the gym kit to deal with – clearly a 30 degree colour wash was not going to work (bacteria thrive at this temperature, and colour powders and liquids do not normally contain any disinfecting substances), so I recommended that for anything that could stand a 90 degree wash, the temperature was cranked up, and anti-bacterial laundry additives were put in the wash of those clothes that would be destroyed at high temperatures. By keeping all the infected children away from others, and washing their clothes properly, together with (thankfully) the right antibiotics, the infection disappeared.

    We often take it for granted that antibiotics will sort us out if we have a problem, but the story above is a warning of what happens when we become complacent.

    The best way to protect ourselves is simple hygiene measures to stop infections happening or spreading:

    • Don’t lend clothes or gym kit unless it is washed properly before and afterwards
    • Wash kit at high temperatures or use a powder containing oxidative bleach or an anti-bacterial laundry additive
    • React quickly to skin infections that appear to be spreading, seek medical advice and keep your child away from school and other children while they are infectious.

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