Going for workouts is beneficial to the mind and body, but the last thing you want is to get sick in a place where you should be getting healthier. This is what happens when you contract gym infections.
As bizarre as it sounds, gym infections are quite common among athletes. Unclean gym equipment harbours an abundance of microbes that result in various infections. Here, we look at some common infections from the gym and explore preventive tips.
Gym infections are simply infections contracted from the gym due to a lack of personal hygiene or direct contact with an infection carrier. Healthy gym etiquette must be practiced to avoid gym infections. Healthy gym etiquette includes:
· Practicing hand-washing.
· Cleaning gym equipment before and after use.
· Covering up your wounds.
· Use your gym mats and towel.
· Wearing shoes.
For many people, the first thing that comes to mind after exercising is to shower and have something to fill their stomachs. Just a handful of people practice the habit of cleaning or watching their gym equipment after exercise.
There are different cases where one can contract gym infections; for instance, some gym users do not wash their hands after using the bathrooms and continue using the gym equipment. One of the downsides of using a gym with many members and guests is that you are at risk of contracting sickness-causing bacteria and infection as many people use weights, treadmills, and other gym equipment. If proper care is not taken and proper personal hygiene is not practiced, it can lead to an outbreak when multiple people are infected from the same source.
Some gym types of equipment are more vulnerable and carry more microorganisms and pathogens than others. These include:
· Weight Benches
· Leg Press Machines
· Yoga Mats
· Free Weights
· Exercise Bikes
A study revealed that exercise bikes had over 1.3 million colony-forming units per square inch, free weights had 1.1 million colony-forming units per square inch, and 60% of leg press machines tested had Aerococcus spp., bacteria that cause UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections). When using these gym equipment, you must maintain strict hygiene. This entails that you sanitize and disinfect them before and after use.
There is no magic to how bacteria are transferred. Gym bacteria don’t appear out of the moon but are carried by and transferred from one person to another. Usually, one can contract gym bacteria by touching gym equipment or surfaces colonized by microbes. These equipment and surfaces may get contaminated through sneezing, touching, coughing, and other activities that result in body fluid deposition on the surfaces.
Microbes may also be transferred directly from person to person. This occurs when body fluids like respiratory droplets from one person make contact with another, or their skin touches each other. Gym users with open wounds and carriers can also transmit germs to other people. Contaminated objects such as water bottles, wristwatches, keys, cell phones, gym bags, etc., can also spread germs in the gym. Objects
Fungi which thrive in warmth and moisture, can be contracted by using wet towels, stepping on wet floors, or wearing sweaty gym clothes. When microbes come in contact with the hand, they rapidly spread to other parts of the body like the hair follicles, cracks, and injuries on your body, from where they gain entry into the body, causing various systemic illnesses.
Gym infections may be caused by fungus, bacteria, viruses, or other microbial groups that gain entry into the body and cause damage to cells. These microbes cause various mild to severe infections easily transmitted from one person to another. Some common infections associated with gym use include;
An athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection transmitted via contact with infected surfaces like towels, shoes, floors, stockings, etc. The fungi that cause an athlete’s foot are known as dermatophytes. These fungi spread very rapidly and are easily transmitted between persons.
Athletes’ foot is common in persons who sweat on their feet. It starts between the toes and presents as a whitish, scaly rash that causes itching, burning, and stinging. Persistent itching eventually results in the area becoming blistered. Athletes’ foot is highly contagious and commonly spread when a person wears footwear worn by an infected person. Luckily, this infection is easily treated using antifungals.
A common cold is a respiratory infection caused by coronaviruses. This infection is often mild but can reduce productivity if left untreated. Symptoms of the common cold include nasal congestion, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and headaches. This infection is easily transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets. UNinfected individuals contract the infection by coming in contact with surfaces that carry the infected respiratory droplet. In addition, the respiratory droplet may make direct contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth, causing infection.
There is no exact treatment for the common cold. Managing the infection involves using drugs like analgesics, nasal decongestants, and cough suppressants. Being a viral illness, it will naturally run its course and go away.
A coronavirus also causes Covid-19. However, this coronavirus is new, more virulent (can transmit more easily), and more lethal than those that cause the common cold. COVID-19 caused a worldwide pandemic resulting in worldwide lockdowns in mid-2020. This virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, and transmission is higher when people close contact with each other. Thus, COVID-19 is a major infectious concern in gyms and other public gatherings.
The symptoms associated with COVID-19 include shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, loss of smell and taste sensation, and reduced immunity. COVID-19 is more severe when comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer, or hypertension are present. Scientists are still working hard to get a cure for this deadly disease. For now, various COVID vaccines confer protection on people.
The flu is another common viral infection caused by the influenza virus. Like the coronaviruses, this virus is also spread via respiratory droplets that directly contact the mucous membranes of uninfected people or indirect contact when uninfected people pick them up from surfaces.
Symptoms associated with the flu include; headache, fever, sore throat, muscle weakness, cough, chills, fatigue, sweating, etc. Managing flu involves the use of medications like analgesics and antitussives.
Hot tub rash is caused by the bacteria known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Also known as folliculitis, this infection is commonly contracted by getting into poorly maintained hot tubs and pools. When your skin makes prolonged contact with contaminated water from these environments, you acquire the causative bacteria. Symptoms commonly start after several days and include itchy red bumpy rashes and pus-filled blisters around hair follicles.
The symptoms of hot tub rash are more severe in areas that make tight contact with swimsuits. If the rashes are mild, they may clear up within a few days. Otherwise, they will require medical treatment. Ensure that the pool or hot tub you use in the gym s chlorinated/brominated, with a pH between 7.2 and 8.0.
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a primarily sexually transmitted virus. However, it may also be transmitted via other media. HPV thrives in warm and moist environments like sweaty skin, yoga mats, moist dumbbells, and other gym equipment. Thus, direct contact with any of these surfaces. HPV quickly evades the skin’s barrier defense, causing skin lesions known as warts.
Warts may present in different shapes and sizes and may present on different areas of the skin. For example, plantar warts present as mid-sized lesions on the feet. Luckily, warts are easily treated through over-the-counter (OTC) creams that contain salicylic acid or podophyllum.
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is an eye infection that may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or particles in the atmosphere known as allergens. This infection is commonly transmitted by touching infected surfaces and touching your eyes. Allergic conjunctivitis commonly results from contacting allergens that are in an environment.
Conjunctivitis commonly presents with red (pink) eyes, tearing, and itchiness. Treating this infection depends on the cause. Bacterial conjunctivitis is commonly treated with prescription antibiotic eye drops.
Ringworm, also known as tinea corporis, is a fungal infection commonly caused by skin-to-skin contact or contact with infected surfaces. This infection presents as ring-like patches on the skin, which are white and itchy.
Impetigo is a contagious skin infection caused by the bacteria staphylococcus and streptococcus. Although impetigo is more common in children, it commonly occurs in adults following contact with infected surfaces like gym equipment.
Impetigo is present as reddish, opus-filled furuncles (bumps) on the skin – think of a pimple. Luckily, this infection is easily treated using antibiotic creams or prescription antibiotic pills.
Stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis, is caused by rotavirus and noroviruses. Stomach flu can be spread when one has close contact with an infected person or contaminated objects and then touches your mouth. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include headache, vomiting, muscle pain, diarrhea, low fever, stomach cramping, dehydration, and nausea.
Gym infections are detrimental when contracted; milder infections like impetigo are a cosmetic worry and result in mild pain. Moderate to severe infections like flu or common cold can reduce your workout efficiency or keep you out of the gym for a period. In addition, every gym infection poses a public health concern, as there is the risk of transmission to others.
Therefore, it is essential that gym users adopt personal and collective hygiene principles to prevent these infections before they cause damage. Preventive measures you can adopt in the gym include;
· Wash your hands before and after a workout with warm or cold water, rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, and air dry or dry with a clean towel.
· Sanitize your hand if you don’t have access to water and soap to wash; you should alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
· Wipe down the gym equipment and mats with a wipe of disinfectant spray before and after workouts.
· Bring or use your exercise equipment and mats, if possible.
· Take your bath immediately after workouts. Do not stay long in your sweaty clothes after a shower; dry off your body with a clean towel and put on dry clothes.
· Always wear your shoes whenever you are in the gym. Then wash your feet, dry them and use antifungal powder if you are vulnerable to athlete’s powder.
· Wash and dry your gym clothes after workouts.
· Avoid going to the gym if you have a cut or break in your skin. You can use a bandage until it heals completely.
· Avoid sharing your items like soap, makeup, combs, soap, water bottles, towels, or brushes.
It is not enough to practice these preventive tips. Informing and ensuring that fellow gym members do the same more effectively ensures that you can prevent these infections. If you are a gym owner, you must put rules and systems to ensure that all gym members maintain proper hygiene. For example, you may organize health information classes to orient new and old members of the basic gym hygiene and etiquette to help prevent infection transmission.
Gym infections are common and, when not properly taken care of, can cause massive infection outbreaks. It is important for gym owners, instructors, and clients to follow the proper gym hygiene to prevent infections among gym members. You should choose your gym wisely. When choosing your gym, you should consider the number of members, the gym facilities, ambiance, and other aspects that influence one’s health.