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Six ways to prevent skin infections at the gym

As more people continue to flock to the gym in the hopes of fulfilling New Year’s resolutions, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has released a list of recommendations on how to prevent common skin infections in that setting. The AAD suggests that dermatologists could use the list as an educational tool for patients. It is also available in video form below. The video is part of the AAD’s Video of the Month series, which offers tips people can use to maintain their dermatological health.

“While skin infections are not a reason to cancel your gym membership, it is important to follow a few simple steps to avoid germs while you are at the gym,” said Dr. Brian Burke Adams, professor and chair of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. “The bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cause skin infections to develop thrive in warm, moist places like sweaty exercise equipment and locker room showers. If you are not careful, you could end up with an infection like ringworm, plantar warts or impetigo.”

Below are some easy-to-follow tips that Dr. Adams said dermatologists can share with their patients who are avid gym-goers.

1. Wear loose-fitting, moisture-wicking clothes. This will help keep the skin dry and prevent germs from growing. Remember to wash gym clothes after wearing them.

2. Always wear shoes in locker rooms, showers, and near pools. Keep a pair of shower shoes, flip-flops, or sandals in your gym bag. Never walk barefoot at a public gym.

3. Keep any cuts clean and covered. Avoid using saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs until open wounds are healed.

“Without treatment, skin infections can worsen,” said Dr. Adams. “Keep an eye on your skin, and if you notice signs of an infection, such as increased pain or swelling, pus or persistent redness, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”

4. Disinfect equipment before and after use. Clean equipment with disinfectant wipes or spray. For additional protection, consider adding a barrier, such as a towel, between your skin and shared surfaces, like workout benches and bicycle seats. Bring equipment such as yoga mats from home, instead of using those provided at the gym, whenever possible.

5. Wash or sanitize your hands immediately after working out.

6. Shower as soon as possible. After showering, wear clean clothes, including clean socks and underwear. Never share personal care items, including towels and razors.

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