A recent paper on skin diseases published by the National Athletic Trainers' Association says it's imperative that you wipe down those machines and mats if you want to guard against infection. The report covers everything from the towels to use and when to shower.
On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Dr. Kavita Mariwala discussed those tips and other ways you can try to keep from getting more than you bargain for during your workout.
TOP THREE PLACES AT YOUR LOCAL "Y" OR GYM THAT ARE THE GERMIEST:
They are the shower, mats, and exercise machines, especially things that have handles. For example, in the shower you can catch athlete's foot if you don't wear shower shoes. On the yoga mats, you can get Folliculitis. That's from when people sweat on the mat right before you. If you don't wipe it down, bacteria form their pores can get transmitted to you once you make contact with the mat. That can infect your skin and it can show up in the form of pimples, a blanket of pimples. For the exercise machines, there are usually a lot of resident bacteria. If you have any open cuts or abrasions, you want to make sure you keep them covered. You don't catch one specific thing from the machines, but studies show that this is the germiest place in the gym. A lot of times, you're sweating and you're using towels on the machines and those towels can carry fungal bacteria, such as ringworm.
Athletes Foot is very easy to get. It's a fungal infection you catch on your feet, but it's very easy to spread to other parts of your body. It's itchy and uncomfortable. To get rid of it, use a topical agent, but if it gets really bad, you have to take a pill, an oral anti-fungal.The best way to avoid it is to use shower shoes and to dry off well between your toes.
Folliculitis is something you can catch from sharing sweaty mats and not showering directly after the gym. It looks like back acne or chest acne. A dermatologist will prescribe a few washes and you use that until it clears up.
MRSA's prevalence of it is increasing in the community. If you notice a boil or pimples on exposed skin - arms, legs, back - and it's getting red and growing rapidly, you want to have it checked out immediately. It can be quite serious if not taken care of promptly.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE
The best thing you can do is wash your hands frequently. Do thay at the gym and in your everyday life. It doesn't have to be with soap and water. You can use antibacterial lotion or gel. But make sure you rub your hands together for 15 seconds and make sure you let it air dry or use paper towels, but don't use a towel if the gym has it there because that will increase your chances of getting ringworm. Make sure you wash your hands every time after you work out.
Before you grab any mat, take a quick look at it and wipe it down with anti-bacterial wipes, especially the part you expect to be lying on, and let it dry. Some people use towels, but ask how the gyms wash them - do they bleach them? If they use colored towels, they're probably not using bleach. You want to make sure those towels are clean and that they use bleach. You could also use anti-microbial soap. I suggest Hibiclens or Dial soap. You can buy the travel size of Hibiclens at any local pharmacy.
It's best to go with anti-microbial instead of antibacterial soaps, because you're hitting all classes of germs: fungal, bacterial, and viral. Lastly use two gym bags, one for your dirty clothes and one for your clean clothes. That separates what's dirty and what's clean, so germs don't sit and incubate or spread. Use machine-washable bags and wash them after every two ot three trips to the gym.
TIPS TO GUARD AGAINST INFECTION:
De-Germ at the Gym
• Cover cuts with waterproof dressing before swimming; chlorine doesn't kill everything.
• Run water fountain for 15 seconds before drinking; make sure it runs clear, because you don't know how close the person was to it before you.
• Bring your own bathing essentials, including a towel, razors and shower shoes.
• Wipe down all equipment with anti-bacterial wipes; this includes not just the handles, but the buttons to ... anything you're touching.
• Shower immediately after you work out; that's the fastest way to get bacteria off your skin. Don't wait until you get home.