High school, college, and pro athletes in sports including wrestling and baseball have come down with staph infections in recent years, in some cases MRSA, the potentially deadly strain that is immune to antibiotics. It’s not always clear where these and other infections originate, but athletes are at risk because they tend to get nicks and cuts, and also to share equipment and towels.
However, you can take some common-sense steps to protect yourself at the gym:
• Make sure the equipment is clean. Gyms are supposed to regularly clean off the equipment, but you should take your own precautions.
• Sharing is not always best. Don’t use someone else’s towel. In some cases, you may also get more peace of mind by purchasing your own basic equipment, like yoga mats.
• Shower right after you exercise. Don’t wait around in your sweaty clothes if you’ve been using common equipment or participating in a contact sport. Don’t use a communal bar of soap, either.
• Wear flip-flops or shower shoes when showering. While staph gets the headlines, athlete’s foot is still a pain. Protect yourself by keeping your feet off the communal shower floor.
• Think twice about the sauna or the whirlpool if you have a cut, scrape, or bad bruise. A couple of microbes thrive in hot water. If you do use a hot tub, shower afterwards.
• Don’t ignore symptoms. Whether or not you’ve worked out lately, pay attention to a scratch, bruise, or cut that becomes red, hot, or tender.