While you know that going to the gym is good for you, it can be hard not to think about all the germs floating around the place. Just because the machines have been wiped down, it doesn't mean you are safe. We don't want to freak you out but there are lots of things you can pick up at the gym while working toward that six pack.
Sorry for the bad news, but here are 7 of the grossest germs you can find at the gym:
1. Athlete's Foot
"Fungus is all over the gym, and it's easy to pick up when walking barefoot around pools, as well as in showers and change rooms," says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. "This can lead to white scaly skin on the sides and bottoms of your feet, mushy white skin between your toes, and thick yellow infected toenails, the latter of which are very difficult to treat." Oh, it gets worse. If you are someone who rides the stationary bike or runs on the treadmill, you are more likely to bang your toes and toe nails against the front of your shoes. "This trauma can lift the nail from the nail bed and offers up a great opportunity for fungus to get under the nail and essentially 'move in,'" says Shainhouse. There are oral and topical anti-fungal treatments available but you are better off trying to prevent it from happening. Always wear your shoes at the gym and keep your feet clean and dry.
2. Pseudomonas Aeruginosa
This bacteria LOVES warm water and especially hot tubs. It can lead to hot tub folliculitis which is a hair follicle infection that presents as a red, itchy, bumpy rash. It can be worse in areas where your bathing suit made contact with your skin. You can treat the rash by making a compress. Mix half white vinegar and half cool water and applying it to the area for 15 minutes, twice a day. You can also try a topical hydrocortisone for the itching. If neither of these treatments works, you may have to see a dermatologist. "The only way to avoid this rash is to go into a hot tub that has the proper chlorine levels [between 1.0 and 3.0 parts per million] and make certain that you take off your bathing suit and shower right after going into a hot tub," says Debra Jaliman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist
3. Cold and Flu Virus
Apparently the cold and flu virus can live on the skin for up to 3 hours and on a surface for up to 4. "This means that any shared gym equipment—think spin bike handlebars, treadmill keypads, free weights—can harbor the virus that causes your next cold or flu," says Shainhouse. So, always wipe down the equipment before using, don't touch your mouth or nose while working out and always wash your hands when you are done.
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4. Staphylococcus Aureus
Most commonly referred to as "staph," it is a bacteria that lives on the skin and in the nose. "It can transfer to gym equipment if you wipe your nose or have it on your skin," says Shainhouse. "If the next person to use the equipment has a break in their skin, the staph bacteria can get in and cause a bumpy rash, boil, or full-on skin swelling and fevers." The majority of staph infections are mind, except MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is more aggressive and resistant to antibiotics. Don't freak out, there are still ways to treat it. If you think you might have a staph infection, pay a visit to your doctor.
"Human papilloma virus is a family of viruses that can cause plantar warts," says Randy Wexler, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "It can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or from walking around barefoot in bathrooms and showers." Make sure to always wear your flip flops in these areas and if you do get a wart, see your doctor for proper removal.
6. Streptococcal Bacteria
"Strep bacteria are extremely contagious and can be spread through skin contact, airborne droplets, and surfaces like exercise equipment," says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and president of LovelySkin. "Aside from causing strep throat, these bacteria can also lead to skin infections and blisters." Strep infections usually get better on their own but skin infections and more serious infections, like pneumonia, need to be treated by a physician.
7. E. coli and Hepatitis A
"These are a bacteria and virus, respectively, that are transmitted by fecal-oral routes," says Shainhouse. This means, you'll get sick by consuming poop bacteria. If someone doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom or doesn't wipe down properly, that bacteria can spread to the next person when he or she touches the equipment and their mouth. Both bacteria can cause cramps, diarrhea, vomiting. In the case of E. coli, you usually just have to wait for the symptoms to pass. If they get worse, get yourself to the hospital ASAP. If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis A, getting a vaccine within two weeks should prevent you from getting a full-on infection. If you experience symptoms, consult your doctor for an action plan.
So, are you sufficiently freaked out?
Source: Women's Health