Gyms are like other public places, the hideout of many germs and common allergy inducing chemicals and compounds. Many of the compounds used in the gym equipment, indoor pools, rags and even locker room soaps may trigger allergies in susceptible people. These allergies include sneezing, coughing, skin rashes, red eyes and respiratory problems. So, if you feel overwhelmingly weary after a gym session and your physical condition worsens on a regular basis, then it is a matter of concern. Some people suffer from chronic cold and flu symptoms even though they workout regularly, this is too a matter of concern.
Allergy triggers at gym
1. Rubber exercise mats or yoga mats
Latex yoga mats can trigger various allergic reactions. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that even though rubber or latex mats are commonly used, they’re a bad choice for individuals with latex allergy. Because even trace amounts of latex may be enough to cause allergic reactions in susceptible people. So, instead of buying toxic PVC mats which contain a lot of plastic chemicals, choose mats made of hemp or organic cotton or other natural materials. Latex yoga mats can also cause contact dermatitis. The skin allergy symptoms are generally treated with topical steroids, antihistamines etc.
2. Indoor swimming pools
Swimming is without a doubt the best exercise one can get, but indoor swimming pool water have too much chlorine content. Chlorine acts as an asthma trigger for some individuals. Chlorine also triggers skin rash, itch, eye infections etc. Ask your pool crew to check the chlorine levels in the pool. Its good to take a shower immediately in filtered water or clean bathing water right after a swim in a indoor swimming pool. Wear swimmers goggles while you’re swimming. Its always better to choose outdoor pools or fresh waters over indoor pools.
3. Chemicals in cleaning products
Many of the cleaning products used in the gyms are toxic disinfectants. They contain a high amount of phthalate fragrance chemicals and toxic VOCs which are hazardous according to the federal law. Unfortunately these harmful cleaners are very commonly used, despite the fact that they trigger asthma, several types of allergies and even cancer! The remainders or residues that remain on the cleaned equipment, may get ingested through your hands if not washed right away after workout. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, they kill 99% of MRSA.
4. The gym locker room
A common ingredient of most antibacterial soaps is Triclosan which is linked to many health problems. These kind of soaps are offered in many gyms, not only do they trigger allergic reactions but also have effect on your immune system. So, avoid the gym’s antibacterial soaps, bring along your own regular soap or hand cleanser instead. Other things include sharing of soap bars, towels etc. How sharing towels can be contagious is quite obvious and needs less explanation, but even soap bars are prone to carry germs and contaminate. So it’s better not to share toiletries of any sort.
5. Workout clothes and towels
Often allergies are triggered by your own clothes. Clothes made of synthetic materials like polyester or nylon are likely to cause skin irritations in people with allergy to synthetic materials. Allergic reactions like itching, rashes etc are common symptoms. So choose natural fibers, Lycra(spandex) or organic cotton instead. These materials are more comfortable and they are not known to cause any kind of allergic reactions. Heat and sweat act as catalysts and speed up these allergic reactions. So, use a cotton towel to wipe off your sweat and wash your towel everyday. Cleansers, detergents and fabric softeners used to wash clothes can too cause allergy. So, choose natural fabric softener and detergents with less alkaline content.
6. Poor exercise technique on your end
Starting an intense workout directly without proper warm up and not cooling down after exercise may cause respiratory problems in some people. Warm-ups are recommended before beginning any exercise regime for a valid reason and so are cooling off with stretches post workout. Exercise-induced bronchospasm or bronchoconstriction (EIB) is a breathing trouble which may be caused due to not warming up or cooling down. This may happen to asthma patients as well as people without asthma. So, perform thorough warm-up and cool-down exercises prior and post workout respectively.
7. Food allergy
Some of the special foods that we eat post workout, for example protein snacks or protein bars or smoothies, may cause food allergies in some people. Some ingredients like nuts, egg, wheat, milk, soy etc., may cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to those ingredients. The only way to avoid this is by reading and finding out the ingredients of the products before eating. By knowing what you’re eating you cut down the risk of food allergy by 80%. Bring your own drinks or snacks to the gym and do not buy protein powders with anabolic steroids.