Avoiding Staph Infections at the Gym

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • According to the CDC (2014), it is estimated that Americans of all ages visit the doctor more than 12 million times per year for skin infections that are typical of staph (staphylococcus bacteria). More than half of those visits are for MRSA, a potentially dangerous type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics and may cause skin and other infections.


    As the weather changes and students return to the locker rooms and you return to the gym, it is important to understand how staph is spread, what the signs and symptoms of the infection are, and what to do if you suspect you may have a staph infection.

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    Staph bacteria can be spread by having direct contact with another person’s infection (think contact sports). Staph can also be spread by sharing personal items such as towels or razors that have touched infected skin. Another way to contract staph is to touch a surface contaminated with the bacteria (think gym mats or exercise equipment). Staph can also be airborne and enter your body through the nose.


    Most staph skin infections appear as a bump or an infected area on the skin that may be red, swollen, painful to the touch or accompanied by a fever. It might go away with antibiotics and then return several months later.


    If you suspect that you or your child may have a staph infection, cover the area and visit your doctor. It is especially important to contact your doctor if you are running a fever as a result of the infection. Sometimes a staph infection that appears as a boil can just be drained by your physician. Certain other staph infections can be successfully treated by a course of antibiotics.


    The best strategy to prevent a staph infection is to do your best to avoid direct contact with the bacteria. Your skin is a natural barrier to infection, so even if you or your child touches staph on gym equipment or on the playground just after someone who has a staph infection, washing your hands well after the activity can go a long way. Also, if you have a break in your natural skin barrier (a cut), it is important that you keep your cut clean and covered when you are out. Remind your children to put a clean towel down on a school mat when they are stretching or to take a minute and wipe down any gym equipment that has just been shared by others. Those in the know should be supportive of the efforts.



Published On: September 11, 2014