At our office we frequently see athletes with skin conditions who did not properly care for their skin while working out among other athletes at the gym or on sports teams. Bacteria, viruses, and germs that cause rashes and irritations are common in gyms, locker rooms or other areas where athletes sweat and their bodies produce heat.
Anything from athletes foot, ringworm, herpes, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), plantar warts, and impetigo can be transferred from one athlete to another quite easily. These types of rashes or infections can easily be avoided if the proper precautions are taken. Here are a few ways to prevent skin infections in athletes.
To help prevent skin infections at the gym, dermatologists recommend the following tips:
- Wear loose-fitting, moisture-wicking clothes. These types of clothing will help to absorb the moisture on your skin and prevent bacteria or viruses from spreading. Washing clothing after each workout will prevent infection as well. Don’t keep them in a sweaty, dirty gym bag. There are several brands including Under Armour, Reebok, Nike and even Russell Athletics at Walmart or Amazon, that make workout clothing that is comfortable and priced affordably.
- Always wear shoes, especially around pools, and in locker rooms and showers. Walking around barefoot at a public gym or exercise area is like asking to get athletes foot. Keep a clean pair of sandals or flip flops in your locker or gym bag. Always wear them in the showers as well.
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed. A cut or scrape weakens the skin’s defense and allows germs that cause infections to enter. Avoid using saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs until your wound is healed.
- Disinfect equipment before and after using it. Usually, gyms will ask patrons to clean equipment after they are done. Have you ever thought to clean it before you work out? Most likely that last few people to use the machine did not adequately disinfect 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. If you can, bring your own towels, yoga mat, or even a disinfectant wipes.
- Rinse off with soap and water as soon as possible after exercising. If you are using the facility to shower, do so as soon as possible. If not, make sure to wash your hands with hot water and soap before you head home. Always wear clean clothing after you shower. While you shower, use anti-microbial soap, clean razors and clean towels.
- Take steps to prevent blisters. Blisters can be stopped by using pads, moleskin, gels or sprays. If your hand or feet are prone to blisters, wear gloves, or two pairs of socks to help stop blisters before they start. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and clean as well.
- Regularly examine your skin. Those who actively work out should perform skin checks regularly to make sure they are not developing any rashes, swelling, showing cuts or infections. Sometimes the irritation, itching or soreness will show up days after an initial rash. Talk to your doctor if you see any problems.
It is important to take care of your skin, especially if you are an athlete. Skin infections can spread or transfer to others if not treated properly. As soon as you notice a problem contact our board-certified dermatologist to see what types of treatment are best for your problem.