If you know me on a personal level; you know that I FREQUENTLY get sick. Although I take all the necessary precautions …. working at the gym has made an impact on my daily health. Being at the gym for 8-10 hours a day can really leave you at risk! The only thing you can do to protect yourself against germs and bacteria is to wash things frequently! Here is a list of gym items and how to avoid germs….
These prevent your eyes being irritated by chlorine and other chemicals in a swimming pool, but used incorrectly, they can pose health risks. Acanthamoeba keratitis is a painful and potentially blinding condition affecting the cornea – the transparent covering at the front of the eye.
The organism which causes it, Acanthamoeba, is found everywhere, including chlorinated pools.
People who wear contacts lenses are more at risk because they are more likely to have minor abrasions or dry areas on their eye which can become infected, says Kevin Lewis, president of the College of Optometrists.
Failing to rinse your goggles and allowing them to dry completely before storing encourages mould and bacteria, increasing the risk of conjunctivitis and infection of the lashes, eyelids or skin around the eyes.
Preventative action: Avoid swimming in contact lenses and wear prescription goggles. “If you want to wear goggles over contact lenses, make sure they completely seal the eye,” says Mr Lewis.
“If water does leak in, it defeats the object of wearing goggles and risks infection. After swimming, remove and disinfect your lenses.”
Optometrists stock prescription goggles and will be able to advise on fitting and adjusting the eye cup for maximum comfort and fit. Choose goggles which carry the British Standard BS 5883: 1996.
As chlorine can eat away at the seals, rinse goggles in clean water, says Ian Anderson, chairman for the charity the Eyecare Trust. Replace at the first sign of leakage or damage, and never share, as this can spread infection.
Sharing towels has been linked to the spread of a new type of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in athletic and sports teams.
“Community-acquired strains of MRSA are quite different from the hospital type,” says Dr Sally Bloomfield of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene in London.
“They have acquired the ability to produce a potent tissue toxin called Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL), which can lead to skin and soft tissue infections, including flesh-eating forms.
“These bacteria can infect the young and healthy. Transmission via close contact, sharing towels and sports equipment is a significant risk factor.”
More than half of us carry the ‘old type’ of Staphylococcus aureus on our skin. Anyone with broken skin – cuts, wounds or abrasions – is at risk of contracting a staph infection from someone else.
You can also pass on threadworm parasites and infections such as diarrhoea and tummy upsets through towels, says Professor Jean Emberlin of the University of Worcester.
Preventative action: If using a towel to wipe machine handles or place over seats in the gym, don’t use it to wipe sweat off your hands or face – there’s a danger of picking up other people’s germs. Use separate towels for your body and the equipment.
To avoid the spread of fungal infections, don’t use a towel that’s been used on your feet or underarms or had contact with the floor. Wash gym towels after every use at 60 degrees – or 40 degrees with a bleach-based powder.
Puttong your kit bag on the locker room floor may result in you picking up a little more than you bargained for.
A study of handbags by Dr Charles Gerba, of the University of Arizona, found faecal matter on 30 per cent of bags —=- probably from being placed on the floor of public toilets.
“We found 100 million bacteria per square inch on some bags,” he says.
“If you get those germs on your fingers, then rub your eyes, nose or mouth, you could get diarrhoea.” Studies also show that changing room benches are not much cleaner.
Inside your kitbag could be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
“If you leave damp, sweaty clothes in your bag for three or four days, then microbes will feed on sweat and contaminate your bag, producing all kinds of volatile smells,” says Dr Hilton.
Preventative action: Hang your kit bag on a hook in the locker room. Unpack it as soon as you get home and air after each use.
Buy a machine-washable bag and wash it regularly – preferably weekly.
Is that faithful old sports bra still giving you support? “A sports bra is not a one-off purchase nor will it last for life,” says Selaine Messem, of Less Bounce (www.lessbounce.com).
“It needs to be replaced regularly.’ Breasts are composed of fatty tissue, held up by thin bands called Cooper’s ligaments. Running makes breasts move in a figure of eight.
“Short term, you will experience pain from repetitive trauma caused by constant movement and bouncing,” says Selaine. “Long term, you’ll stretch the Cooper’s ligaments, leading to drooping.” Larger-breasted women may feel tension and strain in the back and neck.
The first part of a sports bra to wear out is the front elastic in the straps. An over-the-head crop top will lose elasticity in the band under the ribs.
Preventative action: Replace your sports bra after 30 to 40 washes or when it shows signs of wear and tear, such as increased movement of the breasts, chafing and fabric piling or bobbling. Runners should get through three sports bras for every pair of trainers.
You can demote your worn-out running bra to low impact activities, such as yoga.
Showers, saunas and locker rooms are rife with viruses and fungal diseases that can cause athlete’s foot, veruccas and onychomycosis (a fungal infection of toenails or fingernails).
Many people wear flip-flops to protect themselves.
“You have to look after your flip-flops properly,” says Lorraine Jones, spokeswoman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.
“Bacteria, particularly fungi, thrive in warm, dark, dank environments, so leaving them to fester in the bottom of a gym bag is asking for trouble. If you wear them when they are dirty and damp, you may as well go barefoot.
“They’ll get really smelly and place you at risk of fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, and a whole host of new bacterial infections when you next wear them.
“Athlete’s foot causes dry, scaly skin, particularly between the toes, and can lead to splits in the heel.
“It can get worse without treatment and becomes red, inflamed and itchy, particularly when your feet are warm.
“As fingernails are one of the dirtiest parts of the body, I’ve seen serious secondary bacterial infections as a result of scratching and breaking the skin.”
Damp flip-flops may also activate Corynebacterium and Micrococcus sedentarius – these are found naturally on the feet, but in damp conditions they become active, causing an unpleasant smell.
“Even if you wash and dry your feet, the minute you start sweating, the bacteria eats the sweat and excretes waste, giving off a strong odour.”
Preventative action: As soon as you get home from the gym, dry out flip-flops on a bright, sunny windowsill. Sunlight will kill any bacteria that may be lurking.
Invest in two pairs to ensure you always have a clean, dry pair to take to the gym.
Wash and dry your feet properly, especially between the toes. Without moist, damp conditions, athlete’s foot will be unable to take hold, even if you come into contact with the fungus.
Working out in unsupportive and sweaty shoes carries risk of injury and fungal infection. There are 100 times more yeasts and moulds in old boots and trainers than in a flushed toilet bowl.
“Running or training shoes should be your biggest outlay after gym fees,” says podiatrist Lorraine Jones. “A good pair of trainers will give protection from injury and reduce the occurrence of muscle or joint ache, which can result from poor footwear.” Sports shoes also need to be replaced regularly.
Preventative action: As a guide, experts recommend buying new trainers every 250 to 500 miles, when cushioning starts to fail or when the shoes show signs of wear.
“Don’t just look at the tread – this is often the last place to go,” says Tim Parkin of Asics sports shoes.
Alternating two pairs of running shoes is a good idea. Warm, moist conditions make sports shoes a perfect breeding ground for fungi, so having two pairs will give time to air.
Allow at least 24 hours for the shoe to dry out the natural sweat.
If you wear sports shoes outdoors, take care when storing them in your gym bag.
Dr Anthony Hilton, senior lecturer in microbiology at Aston University, Birmingham, has found that trainers worn outside, where there is animal and bird faeces, can carry bacteria that other people then pick up on their shoes and bags.
“If you’ve been running or training outside, put shoes in a separate section in your kit bag and don’t use it to store anything else!”
WOW! If only the other people at the gym would read this article… then, maybe everyone could stay clean and germ free! Follow these key points on germs and keep them from following you home in your gym bag, on your body, and clothes!