As everyone knows, going to the gym is good for your health. It gets your heart pumping, strengthens your muscles, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and even gives your skin a certain glow. Unfortunately, it’s not always good for your skin, because gyms are a great place to pick up skin infections. What can you do to prevent this and protect your skin while enjoying the gym?
- First, it’s helpful to be familiar with different types of skin infections, aka “know your enemy.”
- Ringworm isn’t a worm. Rather, it’s a fungus that looks like a circular, red, itchy rash. It can happen anywhere on your body, can spread from one body part to another, and it’s very unpleasantly itchy. Warm, moist places are welcoming environments for ringworm, so you’re likely to encounter it on sweaty equipment of benches. Ringworm can be treated with anti-fungal creams or lotions.
- Folliculitis looks a lot like acne. These painful, itchy red bumps are not acne, though, but instead are the result of bacteria infecting your hair follicles. This can happen on the neck, armpits, thighs, and anywhere else you have hair, and can be caused by excessive sweating or dirty gym equipment.
- Athlete’s foot is another fungal infection, caused by the same fungi as ringworm. This skin condition causes the skin between your toes to itch, burn, and peel, and can be contracted by walking on infected surfaces. Skin creams can help, but you’ll want to make sure to keep the affected area clean and dry, so it doesn’t spread further. Also, be aware that athlete’s foot is contagious.
- Plantar warts are just warts on the soles of your feet. They’re caused by human papilloma virus, which can be contracted from warm, humid places. You’re at higher risk if you have a cut on your foot, so be careful where you walk. Plantar wards are painful and unpleasant and can make it hard to walk.
- Staph can get scary. It’s a common infection at gyms, contracted when the body is attacked by Staphylococcus bacteria. It starts small but can spread quickly, and looks like an open sore. It will feel tender, painful, and itchy, and can cause fever, chills, sweats, and weakness, and it’s very contagious. Worse, staph can become life threatening, so it’s vital that you consult with a doctor if you think you have symptoms.
- Here’s why skin infections happen. It comes down to a lack of proper hygiene, essentially. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi thrive in moist, sweaty spaces, like exercise equipment that’s not clean or around the pool and sauna. Exercise machines, mats, locker room benches, and towels can also harbor these attackers and increase your risk of infections.
- Here’s how you avoid them. Pay attention to the cleanliness of your gym, and either complain or switch gyms if yours isn’t kept clean. Wipe down machines before you use them, cover any cuts on your body with bandages, and never share personal items like towels and razors. Try to keep a barrier between your skin and anything you’re using at the gym, and consider bringing your own exercise mat.
Many skin infections can be handled at home, but when in doubt, consult with a good dermatologist. Swinyer-Woseth Dermatology is committed to providing superior, professional skin care in a manner that’s practical, efficient, and compassionate. With over 30 years of experience providing dermatological services in Salt Lake City, we provide a variety of services, from cosmetic skincare to treatment for skin cancer. Our team of board-certified dermatologists and licensed cosmetic service providers are here to provide you the care you need in a comfortable, professional atmosphere. Call (801) 682-4715 or contact us through our website.