A wide range of factors can cause you to get a skin condition after working out at the gym. Hard, itchy bumps could result from coming in contact with a chemical or other irritant or from a fungus or infection you picked up. Most skin conditions you pick up at the gym can be avoided with proper care and attention.
A fungus that's common in fitness center locker rooms and showers is ringworm. The skin condition also is called jock itch when you get it in your groin area. It presents with hard, red, itchy bumps and is highly contagious. The fungus that causes ringworm loves warm, wet places like showers and locker rooms and grows on the top layer of skin. It spreads when you have skin-to-skin contact and by sharing towels, sports equipment and clothing. There is no worm involved in ringworm, but the bumps typically form a ring. The hard scaly rash is commonly found on your hands and feet.
Coming into contact with harsh chemicals or cleaning solutions used in the gym can cause you to break out in hard, red, itchy bumps called contact dermatitis. You could have an allergic reaction to someone else's shampoo or even be affected by standing water. The area of your skin that came in contact with the irritant turns hard and scaly within about two hours of exposure. Blisters might form and leave your skin red and scaly with hard bumps. While dermatitis is very itchy, it is not contagious.
Herpes gladiatorum is caused by a virus that's common in gyms, especially among wrestlers, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. The virus is highly contagious and usually passes from skin to skin when athletes press face or arms together. Symptoms of the herpes virus include an inflamed skin rash with hard, itchy bumps. Fatigue, fever and a sore throat also accompany the virus. Eventually pustules form on the skin. The rash usually appears on the arms, face and neck and is not easily eliminated by cleaning mats and workout equipment. Early detection and prevention are the best way to stop an outbreak at the gym.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that you can get at the gym if you have an open wound or injury that you leave untreated. Cellulitis is not contagious but the bacteria can spread and cause complications, particularly if you have diabetes or a compromised immune system. The bacteria also can grow beneath the skin even when you haven't been cut. A mild bump or other injury in the gym can lead to the infection. Protect your skin and watch areas that have received any trauma while you've been working out for signs of cellulitis. The skin around the injury will be red and tender, possibly with hard itchy bumps around a cut or bruise.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."