MRSA: Going to the Gym Could Have Killed Me

MRSAIt's been the summer of gross around my house. First, my daughter got some bug bites, which she scratched and got infected. So infected, in fact, that she couldn't walk from the pain. That was our first prescription for Bactrim. Then, a week or two after she was better, my son got what looked like a nasty spider bite on his belly, which quickly got infected and spread into a rash. That sent us to the ER, when we got the diagnosis: MRSA.

And then, a week or so after he finished his course of antibiotics, I noticed what looked like an infected pimple on my thigh. I knew what was coming, and sure enough, the next day it had a hot, red area around it and it just kept getting worse. So I filled our third Bactrim prescription for the summer.

I have no idea where the three of us might have picked this up, but I have a suspicion: the very gym where we go to improve our health. It's also possible she picked up MRSA at school.


According to the recent New York Times story everyone is talking about, MRSA outbreaks and other skin infections are common at gyms. I thought I was being pretty hygienic, cleaning the equipment after I use it and showering right after, but as it turns out that barely scratches the surface. You need to wash your hands before and after using equipment, use your own towels, always clean equipment thoroughly and shower with antibacterial soap afterwards. And don't mix your clean clothes and dirty ones.

MRSA and similar infections spread like wildfire through gyms because of the warm, moist environment and the possibility of skin to skin contact or contact with other's skin secretions. It's entirely possible I had contact with it but didn't get infected since I didn't have any broken skin, touched my daughter's bug bites, and got her infected. Since she got sick a week or so after school let out, it's possible she picked up the bacteria at school but it didn't affect her until she opened up her bug bites. She then spread it to her brother and back to me. Also, otherwise healthy adults and children carry the MRSA bacteria in their noses pretty frequently.

From personal experience, you want to stay clear of this stuff. It hurts (once I got it, I could see why my daughter couldn't even walk), it's gross, and the antibiotic combo used to treat it is nasty, nasty stuff. I had no appetite and huge stomach troubles, always felt just a little sick, and couldn't sleep while I was taking it. I also broke out in an itchy rash the last few days I was on it, and I have never had trouble with an antibiotic, ever in my life.

And I'm fully aware that we were all incredibly lucky to conquer it as easily as we did. It can get worse and lead to infection with flesh-eating bacteria, or even be deadly. If I'd known it was lurking at our gym, I would have been much more careful. As unpleasant as this has been, we dodged a much bigger bullet.

Have you gotten infected from a super bug? What precautions do you take?

Image via prep4md/Flickr

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