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The 7 Grossest Gym Germs

From foot fungus to genital warts, seven reasons to keep your junk off gym surfaces.

Being a fitness buff and a germaphobe is not a good combination. If you're wondering why, it's because your local gym is positively swimming with bacteria, fungus and other things that make you go "ah-choo" in the night.

But fear not! Before you buy a containment suit and set your gym membership card on fire, rest assured that these common germs are easily avoided and much less frightening than they sound. Which is why we've provided a handy list of germs that have been found in gyms, what they actually are (in English) and how you can get them.

So spray and wipe down machines before and after you use them, lay a towel down before you lay your ass down on a bench, invest in a pair of shower flip-flops, change out of your sweaty gym duds as soon as you're done with your workout, and, most importantly, wash your hands before you stick them up your nose and in your mouth like a filthy toddler and you won't have to worry about these microscopic critters.

HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS

What is it?
Human Papillomavirus is a virus that you probably know as HPV. It's the most common sexually transmitted disease... but that doesn't mean sex is the only way you get it...

Symptoms
HPV usually causes genital warts in both men and women. It can also cause warts in the throat and mouth and even on the feet (known as plantar warts). If untreated, it can lead to cervical cancer in women and (shudder) penile and anal cancer in men. It also results in the inability to land a date ever again.

How do you get it?
You can pick up plantar warts from walking around barefoot in bathrooms and showers.

How do you treat it?
There's no actual cure for HPV, but there are prescriptions to treat outbreaks.

KLEBSIELLA

What is it?
A bacteria that is usually found in healthy human intestines and stool.

Symptoms
Klebsiella can result in a variety of infections, most commonly urinary tract infections and pneumonia, but in rarer cases blood infections and meningitis. The type of infection you get depends on how it enters your body (i.e. through your nose results in pneumonia).

How do you get it?
It's spread through contact, so any shared surfaces--cardio machines, workout mats, weights, water fountains and locker rooms--are fair game.

How do you treat it?
Different varieties of Klebsiella are resistant to certain antibiotics, so it can be difficult to treat, but the right antibiotic will clear it up.

E. COLI

What is it?
Escherichia Coli, commonly known as E. coli, is a common bacterium found in the intestines and stool of animals. It's infamous for almost putting Jack in the Box out of business in 1993.

Symptoms
E. coli infections cause cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and can lead to pneumonia.

How do you get it?
You usually get it from eating contaminated food, but it's possible to catch it from tainted gym surfaces.

How do you treat it?
Most healthy people just need to drink a lot of water and wait for the gut-wrenching symptoms to pass, but if it escalates, get thee to a hospital. Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune symptoms are especially at risk.

STAPHYLOCOCCUS AUREUS

What is it?
Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph, is a bacteria that mostly causes skin infections.

Symptoms
Staph infections are usually mild and include superficial rashes, pimples and/or boils on your skin. However, if the bacteria spreads and gets deeper into your skin, it can become a life-threatening infection such as pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis. Recently there have been reports of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a very aggressive form of Staph that's resistant to antibiotics, in gyms, but it's extremely rare.

How do you get it?
It's spread through contact, so it can be picked up through a shared towel or razor, exercise equipment surfaces and grips or skin-to-skin contact.

How do you treat it?
A course of antibiotics should do the trick.

CANDIDA

What is it?
The most common culprit in fungal infections, this yeast-like fungus can lead to everything from athlete's foot to ringworm to jock itch in men and yeast infections in women.

How do you get it?
Contact. It loves warm, moist areas, so locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools and showers are the perfect environment to pick up some tasty foot fungus.

Symptoms
Ringworm is usually marked by ring-shaped skin rashes, usually on your toes, sometimes on your palms and between your fingers. Athlete's foot gives you itchy, cracked, flaking and peeling skin between the toes or side of the foot, while jock itch causes a rash on your groin. If it's untreated, it can escalate to blisters and severely cracked skin.

How do you treat it?
Antifungal creams, but if it escalates into an infection, antibiotics will do the trick.

STREPTOCOCCAL BACTERIA

What is it?
A type of bacteria that usually causes upper respiratory infections--strep throat. There are 20 different types of strep bacteria.

How do you get it?
It's very contagious and is spread through person-to-person contact, airborne droplets, doorknobs and other surfaces. Sweaty exercise equipment, saunas, locker rooms and drinking bottles can harbor strep.

Symptoms
Symptoms can range from mild throat infections to pneumonia. It can also cause skin infections such as impetigo, which causes blisters, and cellulitis, which affects deeper layers of skin.

How do you treat it?
Antibiotics, although minor strep infections, such as a throat and inner ear infections, usually get better on their own. Skin infections are treated with antibiotic tablets or creams, and more serious infections like pneumonia and meningitis require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.

INFLUENZA

What is it?
You probably call it the flu. It's a virus, which causes a nose, throat and lung infection that makes you feel like crap for a few days.

How do you get it?
Through the air, so contained areas like airplanes, movie theaters and gyms are a great place to catch it. Breathe in the droplets from someone's coughs or sneezes, or get the virus on your hands and touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Symptoms
Fever, body aches, coughing, sneezing, chills, dizziness, flushed face, headache, lack of energy and, sometimes, nausea and vomiting that lasts between four and seven days.

How do you treat it?
There's no cure for the flu, but over the counter drugs help alleviate symptoms. Otherwise, your best bet is a healthy dose of rest, chicken soup, bad television, fluids and self-loathing.

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