Avail Dermatology

Gym Germs Trigger Skin Infections

For many of us, a substantial amount of our summer is dedicated to working out. While exercising at a gym is a great way to build muscle and get fit, all that hard work may be overshadowed by the appearance of infectious skin conditions, if we aren’t careful.

The combination of body heat, sweat, shared equipment, and close contact enables germs to thrive everywhere in the gym environment.

The most common skin-infecting germs that are found in fitness centers include:

Staph (Staphylococcus Aureus) and MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

This is the big worry today. Staph aureus is a type of bacteria which has spread dramatically over the last decade. Where staph infections used to be confined to hospitals, now they are found everywhere in the community. These bacteria cause skin infections that can range from localized acne-like breakouts, to draining sores, or in the worst case, dangerous deep infections known as cellulitis.

To make matters worse, overuse of antibiotics has led to some strains of staph becoming resistant to the commonly used antibiotics. These so-called “MRSA” (methicillin resistant staph aureus) bacteria are even more difficult to treat, requiring powerful antibiotics.

Gyms are frequent sources of staph infections. Entire sports teams have developed these infections from inadequate attention to hygiene, both of the equipment, and of the skin itself.

Tinea. This is a type of fungus which causes a variety of low grade skin infections. The type most commonly associated with gyms is known as tinea pedis, or more commonly, “athlete’s foot.” This itchy, flaky rash is easily acquired off environmental surfaces like showers where others with the infection have walked. Infection of other areas of the body is known as tinea corporis, or “ringworm.” Ringworm is highly contagious and usually appears as a dry, flaky rash with raised edges in a ring-like shape.

Human Papillomavirus. HPV causes warts on feet. You can pick this up from walking around barefoot in showers and gyms.

Candida. An infection of this yeast leads to red, itchy, “oozing” skin rashes particularly in fold areas like the groin and underarms.

Molluscum Contagiosum. This bacterium causes raised, pearl-like modules on the skin. The bumps are usually smooth and may have an indented center with white discharge.

To avoid these germs and prevent future breakouts on areas like your face, back, and chest, be sure to incorporate these precautionary habits into your regimen:

  • Wash your face before and after workouts.
  • Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer periodically.
  • Wear loose fitting, moisture wicking clothes.
  • Wipe down all machines and mats before and after use.
  • Sit on your towel to limit contact with contaminated equipment.
  • Shower soon after workouts.
  • Be sure to dry off with your own towel.
  • Remember to always wear shower shoes.
  • If waiting until you get home to shower, change and wash clothes, including socks and underwear, immediately after activity.
  • If you do develop a persistent rash after workouts, have them evaluated by your dermatologist as many of these conditions will continue to worsen without proper treatment.

What other methods do you use to protect yourself? If you have any concerns regarding your skin and its health, call us today.