The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Staph and Strep infections
A Definitive Guide to Avoiding Staph
Picture this, it’s Wednesday night Muay Thai, you’re on the mats, you have done your warm-up, your wraps are on and as always, it’s a packed house. Mitch, our TFC trainer, yells out “We are just going to start by doing a few minutes of clinch sparring!” You pair up with the closest person; they have all the gear and are roughly your size. Perfect! They will know what they are doing. Your partner initiates the clinch, then it hits you: a smell so foul you retaste the nutritious energy drink and four N’ twenty you smashed at lunch. You think “Did this person soak their gear in a bucket of week-old roadkill and then keep it in their boot for a week?” You can’t focus on anything but the stench and spend the next few minutes of the round purposefully falling for every sweep set up so you can take strategic fresh air breathers on the mat until the round ends. Training ends, you go home have a quick rinse off in the shower and go to bed. Five days later, you notice a red bumpy rash the size of a dollar coin on your arm. Oh no, please God don’t let it be…… You got STAPH!
I know what you are thinking; “Jake you’re being so dramatic, I have been training for years and never once got Staph”. Yes, fine, OK, you got me, I am dramatic, and if you’ve ever seen me after doing assault bikes you already know this, BUT did you also know that 1 in 3 perfectly healthy people have Staphylococcus Aureus?
It’s not surprising given it’s a bacterium that makes up a large percentage of normal human micro flora. Now I bet you’re wondering “if it’s so common how come I haven’t gotten a Staph infection yet?” A fair question! For the most part, Staph is not a problem when simply present on the skin, but it’s when Staph enters the bloodstream or internal tissues of the human body that you’re going to have issues.
Think of all the mat burn, scratches, cuts and grazes that are generally unavoidable when you are participating member of a combat sports gym such as TFC. Any minor cut gives Staph the chance to enter the bloodstream and cause some serious damage. Don’t believe me? If you are not squeamish and want to see the damage that a Staph infection can cause an elite combat athlete, Google “Kevin Randleman Staph” or “Mark Hunt Staph”. These are two of the worst cases I can think of, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
But fear not! Because TFC has your back! Here you will find our definitive guide to avoiding Staph infections while training Muay Thai, Boxing or BJJ at TFC!
TFC’s Definitive Guide to Avoiding Staph and Strep Infections!
CUT YOUR FINGER AND TOENAILS
Less cuts = less ways to get a Staph infection!
This is pretty self-explanatory, if we reduce cuts, we reduce the entry points for Staph to enter your bloodstream and muscle tissue. It also reduces the build-up of bacteria such as Staph and Strep under your nails.
COVER ALL OPEN WOUNDS
All cuts, bumps and mat burns must be covered prior to training. Things happen during training but there are band-aids and bandages available at reception for those cases.
Pro tip: make sure the covering is secure, there’s no point putting a band-aid on if two seconds later it’s stuck to your rolling partner’s foot. I recommend strapping tape over the top. If it happens during training, there are band-aids and bandages available at reception.
WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS
Before and immediately after training! This way you can avoid introducing Staph to the mats or taking Staph home with you. If you can’t read the diagrams on how to wash your hands, ask one of our friendly team members and they will read it for you. Just don’t ask Raf, it’s taking him months to finish Cat in the Hat (so please no spoilers!).
NEVER TRAIN IN DIRTY GEAR
Hey man, don’t do this. Your dark, humid gym bag is the perfect environment for Staph to multiply!
Last training session your gear got all sweaty, it’s probably covered in bacteria (including Staph). Then you chucked it in your gym bag and left it, giving Staph plenty of time to grow all over everything. Now you’re wearing it again and once you start sweating; you’re treating your training partners to a move I call the Staph sprinkler.
BRING A TOWEL
It’s like my boy Towelie said “Don’t forget to bring a towel!”.
If you have Staph on your skin, you have Staph in your sweat. Wherever your sweat ends up so too does the Staph. Bring a towel so you can wipe up excess sweat between drills to avoid it pooling on the mats, your partner or in your car seat on your way home. If your car smells like your gym bag even when it’s not in the car I got news for you bro, you are driving a petri dish.
Pro tip: Avoid having a smelly gym bag by using a waterproof bag for your dirty gear and towel, a plastic bag will do! If your gym bag does stink wash it!
WASH YOUR APPAREL STRAIGHT AFTER TRAINING
You should be washing your gear as soon as you get home after training. No throwing it all wet and sweaty in your laundry basket or on your floor! You’re just letting all the nasties multiply and colonise your house you filthy animal. Get home, go straight to the washing machine and chuck all your apparel in it. Then wash it on HOT! It’s not the dishes. Don’t put it in a sink of cold water and tell yourself you will get it to it tomorrow. Staph can survive temperatures as cold as -10 degrees. Also don’t sit on your couch or bed in sweaty, dirty gear you will likely be giving Staph to everyone you live with.
Hot means 60 degrees or more.
If you are going to soak it, again, do it in a bucket of HOT water. Other options include adding an antibacterial detergent or a heap of vinegar to the water (be warned: this could make your clothes smell strongly of vinegar, so wash them after as well).
CLEAN YOUR GEAR
ALL your gear – Gloves, Shinnies, hand-wraps and your gym bag!
Use the wipes available at the gym. Wipe your gear down inside and out and when you get home put them in an area that gets sunlight and air them out. Sunlight kills bacteria so secure the Velcro back on your gloves so they are open, and you shouldn’t have any issues.
We have so many wipes at the gym now due to COVID and everyone has been doing a great job wiping the pads down, do this with your gear.
Some people use anti-humidity sachets or (weird I know) socks of kitty litter in their gloves. As weird as this sounds those materials are absorbent, the sweat goes from the inside of the glove into the sachets and the bacteria with it. You can also put your gloves in a plastic bag and in the freezer overnight. Google it, it works a treat to kill bacteria.
WHERE TO WEAR SHOES
Come to the gym wearing shoes. If you will be wearing boxing shoes, bring them with you and put them on, on the mats. If you are not on the mats, wear shoes. If you need to go to the bathroom, get a drink, use the weights or take a mirror selfie wear your shoes!
Think about it in a non-gym scenario: if I walked into a public bathroom barefoot and then went up to someone and asked if I could put my barefoot on their neck or chest I would be currently writing this with a Ouija board as I would likely have been murdered.
If you forget that’s fine, we all make mistakes but please clean the bottom of your feet with wipes before entering the mat to kill any bacteria.
Remember – Shoes on EVERYWHERE EXCEPT the mats!
DON’T TRAIN IF YOU HAVE STAPH SYMPTOMS
Staph is highly contagious. If you have any symptoms of a Staph infection including something that resembles a boil, a painful rash, an oozing blister or a fever don’t train. Please go and see your doctor.
A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR
I know this was a long article and I appreciate you slogging to the end. Gold star for you. Just keep the above guidelines in mind and we should be able to keep TFC a Staph infection free zone. Don’t forget we are a team, and these guidelines are to keep us all safe while we learn the finer points of face punching!
Microbiologist and avid face-punching fan