Column: Why showers shoes are essential when living in college dorms

Going barefoot in communal showers makes you the perfect target for bacteria and dangerous biofilms.

Kyleigh Polston is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life for The Maneater.

My sister and I don’t agree on a lot of things. In fact, it’s rare when we do, but there is one topic we can wholeheartedly agree on: the importance of wearing shower shoes.

When living at home you always know, for the most part, who and what has been in your shower. There hasn’t ever been a whole lot of concern for sanitation in a place like our own showers, so we all just go barefoot without a care in the world.

As we make our way through this semester, thousands of students are finally settling into MU’s residence halls, most of which are community-style living.

Each floor in an average community residence hall houses approximately 52 students, all of who share three community style bathrooms. These communal spaces raise students’ risk for a variety of fungal or bacterial infections.

Your showers may soon become home to biofilms that can lead to infections, and the warm and wet environment that is a communal bathroom creates the perfect breeding ground.

Now, you may be wondering what a biofilm actually is. Biofilms are a buildup of one or more different types of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that are attached to a hydrated polymeric surface. They can form on a plethora of different surfaces, ranging from implanted medical devices and ponds to your teeth. The common theme among these surfaces is simple: they’re wet.

Wet environments, such as the one in your communal shower, act as an energy source for the growth of different bacteria, fungi and protists, according to a 2007 article published in Microbe Magazine.

The growth of these biofilms is where the real problems start coming in, because they can lead to the indirect transmission of fungal and bacterial infections such as athlete’s foot or strains of staph.

Most people don’t realize or understand the risks of bacteria being transmitted through their feet because there aren’t any obvious ways into your body, but it’s more risky than you think.

Bacteria and fungi can gain access to your body through small cuts on your feet that you didn’t know were there, or even small cracks or lesions caused by dry skin.

One of the most common fungal infections is athlete’s foot, and, contrary to popular belief, athletes are not the only ones to get it. In fact, showers in residence halls are becoming one of the most common ways to contract athlete’s foot.

This fungal infection usually begins by affecting the bottom of your feet and the areas between your toes. If this infection is left untreated, it can get nasty and spread to different areas of your body. It can be treated by over-the-counter medicine, or in more extreme cases prescription-strength medication.

Multiple strains of staph can also be transmitted by a type of bacteria that can be found in biofilms and is very contagious through direct and indirect contact.

The difference is that staph is not as easily treatable with medications if it isn’t caught quick enough in advance. It is highly resistant to antibiotics and there have been reported cases of football players dying after contracting it from their locker room showers.

This is not to say that everyone who goes barefoot in a communal shower will come down with athlete’s foot or a staph infection. It’s to help you understand that the risk is there and it’s your responsibility to understand and protect your body against harmful bacteria that may be lurking in your shower.

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