Dr. Leslie Storey at Valley Skin Institute has some advice for all her patients flocking to the gym to keep their New Year’s resolutions to get in shape: While you are working out to lose weight and look good, don’t forget to take precautions to prevent skin infection at the gym. Germs thrive at the gym.
How can you get skin infections at the gym?
Bacteria, fungi, and viruses that cause painful and disfiguring skin infections thrive in warm, moist places like gym equipment and showers. If you are not careful, you could wind up with a skin condition like ringworm, impetigo, or plantar warts — or, even worse, a hard-to-treat antibiotic-resistant infection like MRSA. But Dr. Storey has some suggestions for simple ways to make sure you don’t pick up a skin infection at the gym.
Seven simple steps for avoiding skin infections when you work out.
It’s impossible to completely avoid skin contact with germs. In fact, human skin is normally home to small numbers of microorganisms with the potential to cause infection. As long as the skin is intact, and the germs are not too numerous, skin infections do not occur. Problems arise when broken skin is exposed to germ-laden surfaces, or huge numbers of bacteria, fungi, and viruses are allowed to accumulate even on healthy skin. Here’s how to keep that from happening:
- Don’t exercise in tights or tight clothes. Or if you must wear tights, choose Spandex. Whenever possible, wear loose-fitting clothing when you work out at the gym. Loose-fitting bamboo, polyester, polypropylene, and even wool wick away moisture and keep skin dry.
- Wash your gym clothes every time you wear them. Always put on freshly laundered exercise attire for your workouts. This keeps bacteria from accumulating on your clothes between visits to the gym.
- Always wear shoes around the pool, in the locker room, and in public showers. Take shower shoes, flip-flops, or sandals with you to the gym and use them. But don’t store them in your gym bag between trips to the gym.
- Disinfect equipment before and after you use it. The good news about gym equipment and skin infections is that gym equipment is not a home for staph bacteria. They are more likely to hang out in steam rooms and locker rooms. But certain viral infections can survive on the surface of exercise machines so it’s a good idea to wipe them down before use, and after use as a courtesy to the next gym member.
- Sanitize or wash your hands after you work out. And don’t touch your face with your hands unless you have sanitized or washed them.
- Take a shower after you work out. Don’t put your gym clothes back on after your shower. Put on fresh underwear and socks under the street clothes you wore to the gym.
- Keep any scrapes, cuts, or abrasions on your skin covered when you work out. Avoid swimming pools, hot tubs, and steam rooms until your wound is healed.
These steps take some time, but they prevent skin problems that could keep you from following through on your New Year’s Resolution to stay healthy. So make a second New Year’s resolution for optimal health: Resolve that you will make an appointment with Valley Skin Institute as soon as you see signs of a skin infection, no matter what its source. Pain, pus, warmth, and swelling are signals that you need to see Dr. Storey for treatment right away. Without treatment, skin conditions can get worse. Checking in with Dr. Storey for annual skin exams and prompt treatment of skin issues will help you maintain the beautiful skin to match your healthy body.