Ensuring Your Athletes Are Safe in The Locker Room And Have Safe IAQ

Learn how to help your athletes stay safe and healthy by improving indoor air quality in school athletic facilities.

Sports season is upon us. This time of year, from game-winning goals to team celebrations, brings student-athletes together, and we encourage them to excel. Unfortunately, some unwanted intruders may be trying to join the team and sabotage the health of your players.  

The locker room is an ideal setting for bacteria and infections to spread. The environment is often warm and humid, and players may share items such as towels, razors, athletic equipment, or uniforms. Bacteria, mold, and fungi can thrive in a moist environment and enter the skin or the lungs, causing sores, flu, boils, and more.  

According to this study, the average gym locker room faucet handle had 8 times more bacteria than the school cafeteria water fountain spigot. And a locker room bench had 6 times more bacteria than an animal cage.  

To protect your athletes from harmful bacteria, the best defense is a good offense. Taking proactive precautions can help reduce the risk of spreading the bacteria and taking down your team members. Read on to learn more about the pathogens your players may be exposed to and how to keep them safe.  

Middle School Track Team Running

Common Contaminants Found in Locker Rooms

The most common culprit found in most locker rooms is Staph, but other illnesses such as the common cold, flu, athlete's foot, and ringworm can also be spread in the changing rooms.  

Staph

Short for Staphylococcus, this bacterium causes minor infections but has the potential to develop into something more serious. It’s hazardous for those with compromised immune systems and can lead to sepsis or bloodstream infections.  

A Staph infection typically begins on the skin and soft tissue. It often presents as a red swollen hair follicle or a skin boil that is red, warm, and painful. It’s very contagious and can develop quickly.  

MRSA

MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is a strain of Staph that is resistant to certain antibiotics. It’s much more challenging to treat and can lead to severe complications.  

Because athletes often get scrapes, cuts, and other injuries, this creates the opportunity for a nasty infection to enter the player’s body. Although these infections are invisible to the naked eye, they have the potential to cause deep painful abscesses that require surgical draining.  

School Wrestling High School Students Infection

Mold

Mold is a fungus that thrives in warm and wet environments, making the locker room shower a perfect place to grow. It can be tracked inside shoes and work its way into the tile and grout. There are many different types of molds, some of which are considered toxic and can cause breathing issues if not dealt with properly.

Mold can also cause problems for people who have allergies or asthma. They may experience sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, or irritated skin.  

Athletes Foot

Athlete’s Foot, aka. Tinea Pedis is a fungal infection lurks in warm wet places like locker rooms, communal showers, and pool decks. It starts as a scaly rash on the skin between the toes and can spread across the foot, causing itching, stinging, and burning.  

Plus, it’s highly contagious. If one athlete on the team has an active athlete's foot infection and they don’t take the proper precautions, it can spread quickly to other teammates.  

How To Reduce Contaminants in Locker Rooms?

Practice Good Hygiene

After every practice and game, athletes should shower and wash their entire bodies with antimicrobial soap. Also, athletes should wash their uniforms after every game, and shared sports equipment should be sanitized.  

Keep Wounds Protected

If an athlete has a cut or a scrape, they must keep it covered with a bandage until it is fully healed. Use antibacterial cream to treat wounds, and avoid swimming with an open cut or scrape. Always wear flip-flops when taking a shower.  

High Students Bandaging Injury To Prevent Infection

Don’t Share Personal Care Items

Each athlete should have a clean towel, soap, razor, and washcloth. Discourage your athletes from sharing personal care items, including hairbrushes, razors, washcloths, or makeup.  

Improve Air Quality

If you remember back to what your high school locker room was like, one of the first things to come to mind is probably the smell or what we would call bad indoor air quality. Many things likely contributed to that smell, including the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning design. Focusing on improving air quality can not only help improve that all-familiar smell but keep your players safe from harmful contaminants that could affect their health.  

An excellent passive method of improving IAQ is contaminant separation by having a dedicated dirty changing vestibule or mud room. This mud room is where athletes go directly after a workout or event to remove soiled uniforms, cleats, and other gear. Ideally, the mud room is adjacent to the laundry area, so the dirty uniforms and equipment do not have to be transferred throughout the facility to be cleaned.  

High School Gymnasium HVAC IAQ Protection

Additionally, placing showers between the mud and locker rooms would encourage athletes to shower before entering the clean locker room. The locker room IAQ benefits from this setup by preventing dirty uniforms and equipment from polluting the locker space, where athletes store their clean clothes and generally spend time between activities.

Improving IAQ Through School HVAC Upgrades

Another method is providing increased filtration is a well-known way of improving IAQ. Providing MERV 13 filters in air handling units has become the expectation in many facilities. Including MERV 8 filters upstream of the more expensive MERV 13 filters help prolong their life.

Add commercial grade-air purification for your locker rooms, such as air scrubbers, ActivePure® Induct Guardian, air purifiers, and dehumidifiers, which are excellent for improving and maintaining your indoor air quality. You will instantly feel the changes immediately after using these air-cleaning devices.

High School Weight Room Air Purifier

Choosing The Right IAQ Technology From The Start

Not all air purifiers work the same. Some manufacturers produce air purifiers, but not all follow standards related to air filtration, testing efficacy, and operational safety. First, it is essential to know what mechanical and electric air cleaning technologies they feature when looking at air purifiers.

Consider an air purifier featuring ActivePure Technology, which has undergone exhaustive testing in both laboratory and real-world settings.  It has been proven to reduce dangerous pathogens including those that cause COVID-19, RNA virus, Avian-Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and much more. It also reduces bacteria, mold, and fungal colonies from forming on surfaces, and eliminates up to 99.99% of airborne Staphylococcus Epidermidis bacteria. 

Unclean High School Locker Room

When choosing the best air filter for your business, you should also consider additional efficiency measures like air exchanges per hour (ACH) and cubic feet per minute (CFM). These measures will help you find the right air purifier to provide optimal air exchanges for the spaces you seek to protect such as the locker room.

For more information on how you can keep your student-athletes safe and protected from illnesses so they can play to their full potential - follow us on LinkedIn.  

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