Skin infections from the gym

Disinfecting is one way to reduce the risk of skin infections at the gym. It is best to wipe down equipment before and after use, as a courtesy to others. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Going to the gym is an excellent way to improve your physical health. However, there are certain precautions that gym-goers should take in order to remain safe and healthy. Typically, the term “gym safety” brings to mind proper lifting techniques, which are very important, but should not be the only precautions we take when working out. اضافة اعلان

Especially in gyms, sweat combined with a moist environment provides the perfect breeding ground for infections, of which the most common types contracted at workout centers are skin infections. However, by applying safety measures, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting skin infections and rest at ease while lifting weights or doing cardio at the gym.

Skin and surfaces
One common skin infection that gym-goers tend to pick up is ringworm, which, despite its name, is caused by a fungus and not a worm. Ringworm easily spreads from one infected person to another, either through direct contact with an individual who has the infection, or — more concerning — from surfaces with the fungus on it. A surface must be moist and damp for ringworm fungus to be able to live. Areas like public showers and locker room floors are the ideal place for it to thrive. It is especially important not to share clothing, towels, combs, or other personal items with a person who may have ringworm, since such items can also carry the infection.

The most recognizable feature of ringworm is the development of a red ring that may be raised and is followed by itching. Treatment varies depending on the part of the body effect. Since ringworm prefers moist environments, it will commonly infect areas of the body where sweat is most likely to accumulate. On the torso, this will commonly include the waistline, skin folds, and the underarms. However, the most common sites of infection associated with the gym are known as jock itch and athlete’s foot. Jock itch typically starts along the crease where the leg meets the body but can spread to the skin around the groin, inner thighs, and buttocks. The cause is typically from sharing contaminated clothing or towels.

Athlete’s foot is ringworm that infects the sole, heel, and areas between the toes. Symptoms are similar to those experienced in other infected parts of the body, but may also include a foul odor. The most common cause of athlete’s foot is walking barefoot in locker rooms, showers, and swimming pool areas.

All about plantar warts
A plantar wart is a wart that grows on the bottom of the foot, particularly on the underside of the heel or toes. When plantar warts occur, keratin builds up on the skin, which results in raised areas that may resemble calluses. A plantar wart may be painful or tender, especially when placing pressure on it while walking. Plantar warts are caused by a virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV). Similar to ringworm, this virus thrives in moist places. As a result, places such as public showers, locker room floors, and areas around swimming pools are common places for infection. Although the virus can be transmitted through direct contact, it is contracted more easily if there is a cut or opening in the skin of the foot.

Although plantar warts may be unsightly or painful, the infection itself is mild. Plantar warts remain isolated to the foot and, in some cases, resolve naturally. Even in cases where they do not resolve on their own, treatments for plantar warts are simple but may take a few months to fully remove.

A hot tub how-to
Hot tub rash, also known as hot tub folliculitis, is a relatively common infection from public hot tubs and warm pools. It is caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa which thrives in warm and moist areas. This type of bacteria is extremely resilient and can survive even in water that has been chlorinated. Although any warm water can carry the bacteria, it is most common in pools and hot tubs that are not cleaned regularly and thoroughly.

Hot tub rash is a skin infection that takes place in the hair follicles and produces tiny red bumps that are often itchy. Additionally, the bumps may become pus filled and resemble acne. The rash can develop within a few hours to several days after exposure.

It is common for the rash to appear on the chest where the water level meets the body, or under the swimsuit where water becomes trapped for longer periods of time. To prevent this, avoid shaving or removing hair immediately before using a hot tub. Additionally, avoid sitting around in a damp swimsuit, and wash off with soap and water as soon as you are done.

Stay dry, stay healthy
Regardless of the type of infection, there are steps that you can take to help reduce your risk of picking up an infection at the gym. Moisture is a preferred environmental factor for nearly all forms of skin infections. Wearing loose-fitting clothes can help allow areas of skin that accumulate sweat to dry off. Similarly, it is advised to wear dri-fit undergarments that help move sweat from the skin to the surface of the fabric. Consider wearing both loose-fitting and dri-fit clothing in order to keep the skin as dry as possible. Additionally, it is important to wash your clothes and towels after every use, and especially — not to share them with others.

If your gym has a swimming pool or you decide to use the showers, there are a few things to consider. First, never walk barefoot in the gym. Even in the shower, keep a pair of waterproof sandals on at all times. Once you finish showering, dry off with a clean towel as thoroughly as possible. If swimming in the pool, it is impractical to wear shoes while swimming. However, once you step out of the pool, have a pair nearby to limit exposure.

Disinfecting can be another effective way to reduce the risk of skin infections. Many local gyms have spray bottles containing disinfectant near the equipment. Alternatively, you can bring your own spray bottle or wipes along with a rag to wipe down equipment. It is best to wipe down equipment before and after use, as a courtesy to others. For additional protection, consider bringing a towel for the sole purpose of providing a barrier between your skin and the equipment. Similarly, it is best if certain equipment such as yoga mats, boxing gloves, or lifting belts are brought from home and used only by you.

Finally, personal hygiene is arguably the most effective way to prevent skin infections. Immediately after finishing at the gym, you should wash your hands. Additionally, consider carrying hand sanitizer to use regularly throughout your exercises and between machines. If you choose to not shower at the gym, shower as soon as possible after working out. Following your shower, be sure to put on clean clothes, particularly socks and undergarments.

If you have any cuts or cracks in your skin, you must keep them clean and covered. Even if a wound is covered, you should still avoid saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs until it has completely healed. If you notice any signs of a skin infection such as pain, swelling, redness, or itching, consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

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