Work out a way to avoid gym germs

Advanced Dermatology, PC News Work out a way to avoid gym germs

Contact: Melissa Chefec, MCPR Public Relations, 203-968-6625

For Immediate Release


Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Fox offers advice on staying healthy while staying in shape.

New York, NY, February 2008 –You workout to stay in tip top shape not to pick up a nasty skin infection. But especially in winter, when cold winds rage outside, even the heartiest of us depend on gyms or health clubs to get our weekly dose of exercise. And as everyone knows, health clubs––where hundreds of people may be using the same equipment, showers and saunas––can harbor germs.

Most everyone walking has heard of athlete’s foot and knows you can pick that up in gym showers or even walking barefoot around damp health club floors. The solution? Wear flip-flops! And everyone knows that it’s not hard to get sick when the girl or guy who used the Stairmaster just moments before you climbed on has a raging cold. Yes, before you use shared equipment you should take a moment to wipe them down with the disinfectants many gyms now keep handy.

But this year, the bar has been raised in terms of scary germs you can contact at the gym; this year there’s talk of a sometimes deadly staph infection called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA for short. The question is, do you really need to worry about catching MRSA at the gym?

Dr. Joshua Fox founder of Advanced Dermatology and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, answers by saying, “No––and yes.” If that sounds more like a politician than a physician it’s only because Dr. Fox is being careful. “Last week, one of my patients called in a panic after hearing folks at her health club joke about staph infections. She wasn’t laughing. She was downright scared.” He goes on to say, “I’m glad she called so I could set her mind at ease a bit, but also so I could review with her some simple, smart ways to keep MRSA, and really any skin germs, at bay––through the winter or any time of year.”

For those who haven’t heard the news about MRSA, Dr. Fox explains: “Staph infections used to be associated with hospitals and large health care facilities. And there’s no doubt that most staph infections occur in people who’ve recently had medical procedures such as dialysis, surgery or catheters––and especially in those with weakened immunes systems. So, no, ordinarily, you need not worry about staph. But this new variant––MRSA––has been found in recreational athletes, and is transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact.” The Center for Disease Control notes on its website that because MRSA can move from the skin to infect the blood and bones––with potentially life threatening complications––and because it is antibiotic-resistant, it makes sense to be a bit more careful. In our practice we have seen the number of MRSA infections increase over the last few years It is important that antibiotics resisted only means that it is more resistant to antibiotics than normal – not that no antibiotics work against it. We have been successful treating these patients.

In fact, it is much more likely that you will contract tinea pedis (that’s latin for the fungal skin infection athlete’s foot) than a staph infection. Like other common skin diseases that show up on the feet––and that includes the fungal infection Onychomycosis or the virus plantar warts––athlete’s foot is easily treated by over-the-counter products or, for more stubborn cases, with a prescription medicine or treatment that your dermatologist can prescribe.

Avoiding any skin infection at the gym means following the advice your Mom always gave you, such as “Wash your hands before you eat!” and “Use a clean towel!” But with MRSA in the picture, Dr. Fox seconds the directives of the Centers for Disease Control has posted on its website, namely:

  • Keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Shower after you work out
  • Cover any open skin area such as abrasions or cuts with a clean dry bandage
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors
  • Use a barrier (e.g., clothing or a towel) between your skin and shared equipment, and, finally
  • Wipe surfaces of equipment with an antiseptic spray before and after use.

The good news is that these precautions––which are really just good hygiene––will not only protect you from MRSA, they should provide you with protection against such run-of-the mill skin infections as Athlete’s foot, plantar and other warts, Tinea Versacolor, Herpes Simplex, Onychomycosis––and even help you from catching a bothersome cold.

So don’t forego your workouts for fear of catching a skin disease. In fact, add an additional lift this winter: lift the antiseptic spray bottle before you jump on the Stairmaster or pick up a dumbbell that someone else has just used. And if you have questions about prevention, or a rash or bump that’s turned up anywhere on your body, call your dermatologist. As Dr. Fox says, “As a dermatologist, I’m here to both prevent and to treat skin diseases.”

Bio: Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D

Joshua L. Fox, M.D., is a leading authority in the field of dermatology with an expertise in skin cancer, cosmetic surgery, and laser procedures. As an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Dr. Fox has been an expert resource on dermatologic topics for numerous televisions networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and Telemundo, talk shows, radio stations, newspapers and magazines. He has received multiple research and clinical awards, including recognition from Top Doctors, Who’s Who, Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology, Community Service Award from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the prestigious Husic Award, as well as certificates of recognition for service from multiple hospitals, civic, educational and community organizations. Dr. Fox has authored and presented papers of his research on lasers, cosmetic procedures, stretch marks, scars, skin cancer, bug bites, photosensitivity and various rashes.

As founder and director of Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, Dr. Fox and associates have expanded the practice to one of the largest in dermatology, laser and cosmetic surgery, with more lasers than any hospital on the eastern coast. Dr. Fox is a graduate of the New York University Medical Center of Skin and Cancer and has been on the advisory board of the Psoriasis Foundation and National Rosacea Foundation, among others. He has also been a fellow of many societies, including the International Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology and the Society for Investigative Dermatology. Dr. Fox is the founder of the AAD Melanoma/Skin Cancer Prevention Program in Queens, New York (since 1987). Dr. Fox has been Chief of Dermatology of several major teaching hospitals, including Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens and Jamaica Medical Center, and is currently on the staff of eight NY area hospitals. Dr. Fox is also the founder of New Age Skin Research Foundation at, committed to research and advocacy in dermatology. Dr. Fox and Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser & Cosmetic Surgery have been used as a resource center educating dermatologists, laser surgeons and cosmetic surgeons and others about lasers, cancer and cosmetic surgery.

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