An Unwanted Yoga Partner: Fungus

Yoga is good for your mind and body, including your skin. Yoga mats, on the other hand, might not be. Using someone else’s yoga mat for an hour could lead to an infection.

Fungus infections are common and appear as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and ringworm. Unfortunately, the fungus can survive on surfaces like mats long after the infected person has left. Although most people blame the gym locker room when they develop athlete’s foot, you can catch the fungus from a variety of places anytime you walk barefoot.

Fortunately, even if the fungus comes into contact with your skin, it doesn’t always lead to infection. Dry, cracked skin, or soft, wet skin disrupt your primary defense against the fungus — the densely packed barrier of skin cells, oils and proteins on your healthy skin’s surface. Here are 5 ways to prevent taking a fungus home with you from your next yoga class:

1. Bring your own mat. At least you know what you have.

2. Use an alcohol sanitizer on your hands and feet after your class. Sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are excellent at drying up the fungus and killing it long before it has a chance to infect you.

3. Clean your yoga mat. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and scrubbing will act as a fungicide. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the wash so that your neighbor doesn’t think that vinegar smell from your mat is coming from you.

4. Take a shower after class. Be sure to scrub your hands and feet with soap and water. Fungus sitting on the surface of your skin can easily be washed off.

5. Keep your skin healthy. Damaged, cracked, or moist skin is vulnerable skin. Dry your feet well and use antiperspirant on them if you have trouble keeping them dry. Moisturize daily to preserve a protective barrier of healthy skin which will keep infections out.

Photo: Terriko

Manuka Honey Fights MRSA Infection

honey justmakeit

I’ve always loved September. I loved the crispness in the air, the sounds of a football game, the feel of brand new textbooks. OK, so I was kind of a nerd.  But school was easier when I was young. For one thing, there were no MRSA infections to worry about.

MRSA is a staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria infects you when your skin’s protective barrier is disrupted by small scrapes or other injuries. Once it has a foothold, it can spread aggressively leading to painful, even dangerous infections.

School-age athletes are particularly vulnerable to MRSA because the bacteria likes to spread in locker rooms and on contaminated sports equipment (but not on chemistry flasks, so I guess I would have been safe).

Because the bacteria is resistant to many antibiotics, it is difficult to treat. In rare cases, it can be life threatening, defying all medical therapies.

One of the ways we can reduce the risk of drug resistant bacteria like MRSA is to reduce our use of antibiotics. Researchers at the University of Wales Institute have been working on this problem and looked at an old home remedy to treat infection: honey. Honey has natural antibacterial properties and has been used to aid in wound healing. But, they asked, how would honey fare against MRSA, the staph superbug?

They found that in the laboratory, manuka honey does kill MRSA bacteria. If it turns out that it also works when applied to real patients, then we might be able to use medicinal honey to treat minor cuts and abrasions or to treat superficial staph infections without resorting to antibiotics. However, don’t try try this at home, as yet, this is not yet an approved, safe treatment for staph infections.

Staph infections, especially MRSA infections, can be serious. If you suspect that you or your child has a staph infection, then see a physician.

Your Hands Are Teeming With Bacteria

hands-pink-sherbert-photography

Right now your hands are teeming with bacteria. Countless trillions of organisms call your skin home, and that’s a good thing. Skin infections do not arise because you have bacteria on your skin. Rather, they arise because the type of bacteria on infected skin is not healthy bacteria but aggressive pathogenic bacteria.

Determining which bacteria are good and which are dangerous is difficult, but our immune systems have managed to get it right most of the time. When our immune systems are wrong, either an infection develops, or excess inflammation develops, as is the case in eczema or psoriasis.

Telling good from bad is hard. There are hundreds of types of bacteria on your hands right now. A recent study of college students (perhaps not the cleanest group of individuals) discovered that the average student has 140 different types of bacteria on his or her skin. There were over 4,000 different types of bacteria identified across all the students. Not surprisingly, the most common types were familiar household names: Propionobacterium (the bacteria responsible for acne), strep, and staph (of which the infamous methicillin resistant staph aureus, MRSA is a subtype).

There were also differences in the bacteria on the dominate hand versus the non-dominant hand — namely bacteria normally found in the gastrointestinal track was found more often on the dominant hand. This will no doubt lead to a follow up study of: “Do college students wash their hands before leaving the bathroom?” (Research so far does not look promising).

Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography (flickr)

The Plague Hits San Diego

The plague has hit San Diego. No, I don’t mean the Carolina Panthers, although they might as well have been the plague after defeating the Chargers yesterday. I mean the actual plague. The plague is the bacterial infection from rats that killed as as many as 100 million people throughout the world in during Medieval times. Continue reading “The Plague Hits San Diego”

MRSA, the Staph Superbug

What is MRSA?

MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to methicillin, an anti-staph antibiotic. MRSA is a particularly virulent strain that can cause a life threatening infection, especially in frail or immunocompromised patients. It is more common than we thought; data from the CDC showed that there were about 94,000 cases of MRSA in the US in 2005 with over 18,000 deaths, more than from AIDS. Continue reading “MRSA, the Staph Superbug”