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Herpes Skin Infection (Herpes Gladiatorum)

What is a herpes skin infection?

The herpes simplex virus can cause a skin infection called herpes gladiatorum. It occurs often in wrestlers. It causes a rash that commonly appears on the face, neck, shoulder, and arms.

How does it occur?

An infected wrestler can pass the infection to an uninfected wrestler by skin contact.

What are the symptoms?

The herpes simplex rash is usually a cluster of blisters that may or may not be painful. People who have had a herpes skin infection may get outbreaks in the future from the herpes virus being activated again.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your skin. He or she may do a culture to test for the herpes virus. Knowing that the rash is from the herpes virus may help your provider treat you.

How is it treated?

The rash usually lasts 7 to 10 days. It is important that you do not have skin contact with any uninfected person while you have the skin rash. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine called acyclovir (Zovirax) in a pill or an ointment form or oral valacyclovir (Valtrex) to speed your recovery. Some wrestlers are given these medicines during their competitive season if they have previously had herpes gladiatorum to prevent outbreaks during the season.

How can it be prevented?

It is important for you to watch for any rashes so you don't spread them to others. In many athletic leagues, wrestlers who have rashes are not allowed to compete. It is also important to routinely clean and disinfect wrestling mats.


Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2012.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-08
Last reviewed: 2011-06-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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