Fungal infections are growths of microscopic fungi which invade the skin. The symptoms include reddening of the infected area, flaky skin, itching, and burning sensations. The most common fungal infections are ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, and nail fungus. While unpleasant, they are not dangerous, and they are easily treatable.
You’ll be glad to know worms are not involved in ringworm. Despite the name, it’s a fungal infection. The symptoms include circular patches of itchy, red skin. It often occurs on the scalp but can infect any part of the body.
Ringworm spreads easily. You can pick it up from another infected person or animal as well as from objects that have been in contact with an infected person. If you’re infected, keep yourself clean and dry, and don’t share toiletries, towels, combs, or clothing.
Athlete’s foot is caused by a particularly virulent fungus related to ringworm. Symptoms are cracked, red, flaky skin, and intense itching. It it attacks the feet because it prefers the moist areas between the toes. It spreads in locker rooms and bathrooms via wet surfaces and contact with towels or clothes that have been exposed.
Jock itch can infect men and women. It attacks the skin around the groin, causing a red rash which burns and itches. It’s also related to ringworm and thrives in sweaty, warm conditions. If you go to the gym or play sports, make sure you wash and dry thoroughly before and after workouts or games. Wear loose underwear and avoid chafing.
Nail fungus is an unsightly condition that can attack fingernails and toe nails. It leads to yellow-colored growth under cracked, thick nails. You can help prevent nail fungus by wearing shower socks in the locker room and public baths, avoiding scratching other infected areas, and keeping your nails short, clean, and dry.
Help Prevent Fungal Infections
While you can never be completely sure of avoiding an infection, you can take several precautions to lessen the chances of contracting one. Don’t wait until it’s too late to follow these guidelines. They’re easy and sensible, and should be part of your everyday routine.
- When you finish your workout or sports game, change out your gear immediately. Always put clean clothes on before you start. Wash your clothes after every session.
- Hygiene is vital in the gym. Always wear shower slippers. Don’t sit on wet surfaces or share towels, workout mats, or footwear and gloves. It’s worthwhile wiping down and drying any gym equipment before and after use.
- When you’re at home, make sure you wash and dry thoroughly every day. Change your underwear, socks, and nightclothes daily. Wash and dry sport shoes when not in use. Kick off your day shoes and socks and let your feet breathe.
How to Treat Fungal Infections
If you contract a fungal infection, you should see a physician. Most skin infections look alike to the untrained eye and you’ll need a proper diagnosis before you can go ahead to treatment. In most cases the remedy is a topical application of a fungicidal cream or powder. In severe cases, you may need oral medication.
Although fungal skin, scalp, groin, and nail infections are unsightly and uncomfortable, they are not life-threatening and usually can be cured within a few days or weeks. You should never attempt to self-diagnose, however, as applying the wrong treatment can make matters worse.
Always see your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, or nail fungus. They never go away on their own, and the earlier you get a diagnosis, the easier it will be to treat your condition.