5 contagious skin conditions you can get at the gym

Mens health

Training hard, gaining mass might not be the only thing that you might pick up at the gym and taking home. The gym is filled with bacteria, viruses, and fungi, some can be nasty, others just uncomfortable. Either way, these invisible pests lurk around in the showers, the locker room floors, on the gym equipment and in the pool and saunas. Some can make their way onto your skin, causing nasty skin problems.


The symptoms for a ringworm infection is that this fungal infection that hits the top layers of your skin, forming a circular, red ring, that is itchy. It can appear anywhere on your body. But the most common areas include the upper arms, torso or thighs.

The fungus thrives in wet environments. It can be left from an infected gym-goer may be lurking on the moist surface. If it finds a minor cuts or openings in your skin, but you can still pick it up simply from coming in close contact with a contaminated item, say, by resting your arms or legs on a mat that wasn’t wiped down.

Ringworm can be treated with over the counter meds, such as clotrimazole cream which will kill the fungus that causes the ringworm.

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Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is also a type of ringworm, but will develop on your feet and fingers.

The first sign of athlete’s foot is characteristically an itch around the soles of your feet, and dry, cracked skin between your toes. The rash is typically the similar colour as your skin, and sometimes it can cause itchy blisters. This foot fungus is common in public places like locker room showers, but also your sweaty gym sneakers. This means if someone that is infected and walks around barefoot, they can spread the fungus. Then if you walk around in the same area barefoot, you can be infected.

Over-the-counter sprays can treat this fungus. These sprays will remove the fungus by killing it and leaving the skin cells unharmed. However if you do not treat it, the fungus can spread under your toenails and cause a long-term infection.  But take prevention and walk around in slops, or give each foot a squirt of antifungal sprays to ward off future infection after you are done at the gym.

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A staph infection is caused by the bacteria staphylococcus. This is less commonly picked up at the gym, however when you do it can be serious.

A staph infection generally looks like a pus-filled or red bump on the skin that grows warm to the touch and becomes swollen. You may also get a fever, and the area could start to hurt, both signs the infection is spreading deeper in your skin.

This infection can be transmitted via open cuts and sores on the body, or by sharing your towel or working out on a dirty floor mat.

You will need to see a doctor to treat staph. The problem is that staph infections of your skin, rather than of a hair follicle. The doctor will prescribe antibiotic creams or pills. If untreated a type of staph, called MRSA, can be deadly if it enters your bloodstream. But do cover any nicks or cuts with bandages and definitely don’t share towels. This limits any opportunity for the infection to enter your body.

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Folliculitis is a particular type of staph infection that occurs when bacteria enter your hair follicle’s root and causes inflammation. There will be red bumps and pus-filled pimples in hairy areas like your chest or legs. These can feel uncomfortable and tender, especially if the pimples are large.

Just like the fungus with ringworm, the bacteria that causes folliculitis can be left behind on a moist, sweaty piece of equipment. The problem of infection is larger if you have any cuts or nicks in your skin, or even dry skin with cracks, since these can give it an easy entryway to your body. You will need to apply topical antibiotic to kill the bacteria. Also you can lower your risk by washing with antibacterial soap or an acne cleanser with benzoyl peroxide, which should remove the bacteria from your skin.

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Plantar warts

Plantar warts which are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), look like small, skin-colored bumps speckled with little black dots. They can be seen as a single bump, but most of the time they cluster in an area. These bumps are normally tender to the touch, and commonly crop up on the soles of your feet or palms of your hands.

Plantar warts can be contracted by using contaminated gym equipment. Since the virus thrives in moist places, like athlete’s foot, you can also pick it up by walking barefoot in the locker room.

To treat it you need counter treatment like Compound W that contains salicylic acid that needs to be applied on the wart itself making sure you don’t hit the surrounding skin. As that can cause burning and inflammation to your healthy tissue. Otherwise your doctor will be able to use a freeze spray or apply a prescription-grade salicylic acid medicine, both of which will spark your body’s immune system to fight the infection.

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