Skin, sweat…and soap


This week’s New York Times Science section includes a story about sweat, soap and skin that resonated with me.

When my son wrestled in high school, he managed to pick up ringworm, the highly feared (among moms) fungus that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

It was a reddish patch on his arm.
This happened right around the time I was working on a Raising Arizona Kids magazine Health Matters piece with Lin Sue Cooney about MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a superbug and less common strain of staph. I freaked out, of course, and insisted the pediatrician culture the area on his wrist to check.

When it turned out to be ringworm, I relaxed a bit. Ringworm, or dermatophytosis, spreads in warm, most environments (think wrestling mats) but is easily treated with a topical steroid. During treatment, athletes are not permitted to wrestle. That was fine by me.

I’m going to spare you a photo of what ringworm looks like. They’re around the internet, of course. It looks like a small patch of rug burn, kind of reddish orange in an oval shape.

I started thinking about my own workout, however, after I read Be sure exercise is all you get at the gym by New York Times health writer Jane Brody.  I go to a terrific boot camp workout in a beater gym that I wouldn’t give up for anything. But I’m not sure when the mats were last cleaned and disinfected. (Or if they ever have been.)


The National Athletic Trainers Association says athletes should be encouraged to follow good hygiene practices. They recommend the following:

  • Athletes must shower after every game or practice with microbial soap and water over the entire body
  • Soiled clothing, including practice gear, must be laundered on a daily basis
  • Equipment, including knee and ankle braces and knee supports must be disinfected according to manufacturer directions

Looks like I’m going to be taking my own mat to the gym.


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