*WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES*
If you’ve been training for a while its almost certain you have contracted or know someone who has contracted a bacterial or viral infection from the gym. Your gym mats are positively swimming with bacteria, fungus and other things that have the potential to make you very sick. Rest assured that these common germs can be easily avoided and are much less frightening than some may sound.
STAPHYLOCOCCUS AUREUS: Staph, is a bacteria that mostly causes skin infections. Staph infections are usually mild and include superficial rashes, pimples and/or boils on your skin. However, if the bacteria spreads and gets deeper into your skin, it can become a life-threatening infection such as pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis. It requires treatment with an antibiotic.
E. COLI: Escherichia Coli, commonly known as E. coli, is a common bacterium found in the intestines and stool of animals. It can cause cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and can lead to pneumonia. You usually get it from eating contaminated food, but it’s possible to catch it from tainted gym surfaces. Most healthy people just need to drink a lot of water and wait for the gut-wrenching symptoms to pass, but if it escalates, go to the hospital.
HPV: Human Papillomavirus is a virus that you probably know as HPV. It’s the most common sexually transmitted disease… but that doesn’t mean sex is the only way you get it… You can pick up plantar warts from walking around barefoot in bathrooms and showers. There’s no actual cure for HPV, but there are prescriptions to treat outbreaks.
KLEBSIELLA: Klebsiella can result in a variety of infections, most commonly urinary tract infections and pneumonia, but in rarer cases blood infections and meningitis. It’s spread through contact, so any shared surfaces such as grappling mats. Different varieties of Klebsiella are resistant to certain antibiotics, so it can be difficult to treat, but the right antibiotic will clear it up.
CANDIDA: The most common culprit in fungal infections, this yeast-like fungus can lead to everything from athlete’s foot to ringworm to jock itch in men and yeast infections in women. Ringworm is usually marked by ring-shaped skin rashes, usually on your toes, sometimes on your palms and between your fingers. Athlete’s foot gives you itchy, cracked, flaking and peeling skin between the toes or side of the foot, while jock itch causes a rash on your groin. If it’s untreated, it can escalate to blisters and severely cracked skin. Antifungal creams may work but often antibiotics are needed.
AVOIDING INFECTION: Here’s How
Invest in a pair of shower flip-flops. Bacteria love wet moist places such as the gym showers and locker room.
Change out of your sweaty gym gear and Gi as soon as you’re done training. Place them in a separate bag and wash them after EVERY use.
Wash your hands and body immediately after training with anti-bacterial soap.
Ask if the mats at your gym are cleaned after every class. If not don’t be afraid to offer your services and help out but giving them a good mopping before training. Antibacterial wipes and/or spray bottles should be provided at your gym (and used!).
Keep your own blisters and cuts covered with secure bandages. Covering with clothing is not enough.
Written by: Cindy Bertinato
MMA Figher, NoGi Grappler and Ring Girl and Grapplersplanet.com Contributor.