As much as you love going to the gym (well, most of the time), it's hard not to freak about the cesspool of germs coating every inch of the place. And not to sound all alarmist or anything, but catching a cold or flu bug from your fave treadmill may be the least of your problems.
Get ready to bust out your finest hazmat suit because these are just some of the icky germs you can pick up from your gym:
1. Athlete's Foot and Nail Fungus
"Fungus is all over the gym, and it's easy to pick up when walking barefoot around pools, as well as in showers and change rooms," says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. "This can lead to white scaly skin on the sides and bottoms of your feet, mushy white skin between your toes, and thick yellow infected toenails, the latter of which are very difficult to treat."
Plus, fans of the treadmill or bike tend to bang their toes and toenails on the fronts of their shoes.
"This trauma can lift the nail from the nail bed and offers up a great opportunity for fungus to get under the nail and essentially 'move in,'" says Shainhouse.
Treatment is available in the form of topical and oral antifungals, but the best thing you can do is stop these nasty issues before they start: Always wear shoes around the gym, and always keep your feet clean and dry.
More From Women's Health: Foot Fungus
2. Pseudomonas Aeruginosa
This bacteria thrives in warm water and is famous for hanging out in hot tubs. It can cause hot tub folliculitis, a hair follicle infection that strikes in the form of an icky red-itchy-bumpy rash, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist.
It may be worse in the areas where your bathing suit was in contact with your skin. You can nix the rash by mixing half white vinegar with half cool water and making compresses, then applying them to the area for 15 minutes twice a day, suggests Jaliman.
You can also use a topical hydrocortisone cream for the itching, but if either of these don't work, you may need to see your dermatologist for antibiotics.
"The only way to avoid this rash is to go into a hot tub that has the proper chlorine levels [between 1.0 and 3.0 parts per million] and make certain that you take off your bathing suit and shower right after going into a hot tub," says Jaliman.
3. Cold and Flu Virus
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cold and flu viruses can live on the skin for up to three hours and on a surface for up to four. (Ew!)
"This means that any shared gym equipment—think spin bike handlebars, treadmill keypads, free weights—can harbor the virus that causes your next cold or flu," says Shainhouse.
To reduce your risk of catching a virus, wipe down equipment before using it, don't touch your nose or mouth while working out, and wash your hands when you're done, adds Shainhouse.