Skin Health

How to Avoid Common Skin Infections at The Gym

Exercising at the gym offers substantive benefits – weight control, disease prevention and even mood improvement – but it’s important to remember that germs thrive in the gym.

And that could put you at a risk for common skin infections, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), unless you take some precautions.

“While skin infections are not a reason to cancel your gym membership, it’s important to follow a few simple steps to avoid germs while you’re at the gym,” said board-certified dermatologist Brian Burke Adams, MD, MPH, FAAD, a professor and chair of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. “The bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause skin infections to develop thrive in warm, moist places like sweaty exercise equipment and locker room showers. If you’re not careful, you could end up with an infection.”

Always wear shoes, especially around pools and in locker rooms or showers.

Common conditions include ringworm, which is highly contagious condition and causes a red or silver ring-shaped rash on the arms or scalp; plantar warts, a rough growth on the bottom of the foot that is usually transmitted via indirect contact;  impetigo, red sores on the body that are transmitted through direct contact; and athlete’s foot, a contagious red rash that can occur on the bottom of the foot or between the toes.

woman wearing proper footwear in gym

To help prevent skin infections at the gym, Adams has some smart recommendations:

  • Wear loose-fitting, moisture-wicking clothes. This will help keep your skin dry and prevent germs from growing. Remember to wash your gym clothes after wearing them.
  • Always wear shoes, especially around pools, and in locker rooms and showers. Keep a pair of shower shoes, flip-flops or sandals in your gym bag. Never walk barefoot at a public gym.
  • Keep any cuts clean and covered. Avoid using saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs until your wound is healed.
  • Disinfect equipment before and after using it. Clean equipment with disinfectant wipes or spray. For additional protection, consider adding a barrier, such as a towel, between your skin and shared surfaces, like workout benches and bicycle seats. When it’s possible to provide your own equipment, such as a yoga mat, bring one from home rather than using the gym’s.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after working out.
  • Shower as soon as possible. After showering, put on clean clothes, including clean socks and underwear. Never share personal care items, including towels and razors.

“Without treatment, skin infections can worsen,” Adams said. “Keep an eye on your skin, and if you notice signs of an infection, such as increased pain or swelling, pus or persistent redness, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

For more information on skin health, click here to visit the AAD website.

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