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Avoid Infection At The Gym

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:34 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: MRSA, Staph, Public Health, Infectious Disease, Hot Tub Rash, Exercise


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / Inside a Gym / author: Alija

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been in the news a lot as of late.

An 18-year-old student from Kissimmee, Florida died from a powerful strain of staph infection earlier in the month. And in recent years, high school, college and pro athletes in sports have contracted staph infections, and in some cases MRSA, a type of bacteria resistant to treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics such as penicillin and methicillin.

In most cases it is hard to pinpoint exactly where these and other infections have originated from, but athletes are at particularly high risk because they tend to get cuts and scrapes, have skin-to-skin contact with other players and dirty locker rooms are known to be breeding grounds for infections.

The benefits of visiting the gym far outweigh the risk, you just need to use some common-sense and follow the steps outlined below and chances are you will be fine.

Clean the Equipment. While gyms are supposed to regularly disinfect the equipment, you should take your own precautions, says Richard Wenzel, an expert on antibiotic-resistant infections at Virginia Commonwealth University. Using a hand towel to wipe down the machine is not sufficient to protect yourself from infection, bacteria and the like. Most gyms offer disposable wipes, if yours doesn’t, bring your own.

Anything containing at least 60 percent alcohol is recommended.

Avoid Sharing. While overall it is nice to be a sharing individual that is not the case at the gym. Do not share towels with anyone. When possible, purchase your own equipment such as a yoga mat. They are relatively inexpensive and offer you peace of mind from bacterial and viral infections if they haven’t been cleaned often.

Shower After Exercising. Neil Fishman, director of Health Care Epidemiology and Infection Control at the University of Pennsylvania Health Care System says, recommends showering after participating in contact sports or using common equipment. He advises against standing around in sweaty clothes. Bringing your own soap to shower with is another good idea.

Flip-Flops Are Your Friend. Staph infections maybe getting all the news time, but athlete’s foot is a royal pain. Protect your feet by using a cheap pair of flip-flops when you shower. After showering dry your feet before putting on socks and shoes.

Saunas & Whirlpools. If you have bad bruise, cut or scrape, bypass the sauna or whirlpool all together. While chlorine is known to kill many bugs, more than a couple microbes thrive in hot water. A form of folliculitis, caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa can give you a rash that the CDC calls “hot tub rash.” To help prevent it, shower immediately after using the hot tub.

Pay Attention To Symptoms. Lastly and most important, whether or not you have recently been to the gym – pay close attention to any cut, bruise or scratch that becomes red, hot or tender. The greatest risk comes not from any one machine used at the gym, but rather the tendency to ignore symptoms of an infection until it has progressed into something far more serious, says Fishman. #

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