The world around us and our bodies are filled with billions of microorganisms, both harmful and the helping kind. Most of the time, our immune system kills them even before they can cause an infection. However, certain environments are more conducive to the growth and spreading of these organisms. Gyms are definitely among them.
Several people sweating it out in the same enclosed place, using the same equipment, and washing up in the same shower rooms is bound to spread unwanted bacteria and viruses. Some of these infections could lead to serious medical conditions if left untreated. Here are 7 common infections you could catch at the gym.
Klebsiella is a bacteria that is usually found in healthy human intestines and poop. It spreads through contact. Cardio machines, workout mats, weights, water fountains, and locker rooms can be some of the surfaces you can contract this bacteria from. An infection by Klebsiella commonly leads to urinary tract infections and pneumonia. However, in rare cases, it is also known to cause blood infections and meningitis.
Treatment: Different varieties of Klebsiella are resistant to certain antibiotics, so it can be difficult to treat, but the right antibiotic will clear it up.
2. E. Coli
Escherichia Coli is a common bacterium found in the intestines and stools of animals. People mostly get E. Coli infections from eating contaminated food but tainted gym surfaces could also help in spreading it. Symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and pneumonia.
Treatment: Usually, treatment involves drinking a lot of water and waiting for the bacterium to clear out of your gut. In serious cases, hospitalization might be required.
3. Staphylococcus Aureus
Commonly known as staph, the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria mostly causes skin infections. Because it spreads through contact, a shared towel or razor, exercise equipment surfaces and grips, and skin-to-skin contact are enough to give you an infection. The symptoms are usually mild and show up as superficial rashes, pimples and/or boils on your skin. But if the bacteria gets deeper into your skin, it can become a life-threatening infection such as pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis.
Treatment: A course of antibiotics should wipe it out.
This is the most common form of fungal infection which causes everything from athlete’s foot to ringworm to jock itch in men and yeast infections in women. It spreads through contact and thrives in warm, moist areas like locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools and showers. It can give you ringworm which causes ring-shaped skin rashes, athlete’s foot which gives you itchy, cracked, flaking and peeling skin between the toes or side of the foot, or jock itch which causes a rash in your groin.
Treatment: For a mild infection, antifungal creams are prescribed. If the infection escalates, antibiotics may be needed.
5. Streptococcal Bacteria
These are a type of bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections like strep throat. There are 20 different types of strep bacteria and most of them are highly contagious. They spread through person-to-person contact, airborne droplets, doorknobs and other surfaces. In a gym environment, sweaty exercise equipment, saunas, locker rooms, and drinking bottles can harbor strep. Symptoms could range from throat infections to pneumonia. It can also cause skin infections such as impetigo, which causes blisters, and cellulitis affecting deeper layers of skin.
Treatment: Your body is capable of fighting minor strep infections such as a throat and inner ear infections. If not, antibiotics can do the trick. Serious infections like pneumonia and meningitis require hospitalization.
Most people know it as the flu. Influenza is a virus which causes a nose, throat, and lung infection that makes you feel miserable for a few days. Because it’s an airborne virus, it’s much easy to contract. Contained areas like airplanes, movie theaters, and gyms are ideal places to catch it. You can also get it when you breathe in the droplets from someone’s coughs or sneezes, or get the virus on your hands and touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Treatment: Though there is no cure for an influenza infection, over the counter drugs help alleviate symptoms. Or just keep your body warm and let your body fight it out.
7. Human Papilloma Virus
Popularly known as HPV, this virus is usually transmitted sexually but that’s not the only way this virus gets around. You could also pick up an infection by this virus from walking around barefoot in bathrooms and showers. The symptoms include warts in the genitals, throat, mouth and even on the feet. If untreated, it can lead to cervical cancer in women and penile and anal cancer in men.
Treatment: Unfortunately, there’s no actual cure for HPV, but there are prescriptions to treat outbreaks.