Fungal infections are caused by microscopic organisms that become parasites on your body. Mold-like fungi called dermatophytes cause athlete's foot, jock itch and ringworm of the skin or scalp. These fungi live on dead tissues of your hair, nails and the outer layer of your skin. Poor hygiene, continually moist skin and minor skin or nail injuries increase your susceptibility to fungal infections.
Athletes foot usually begins between your toes, causing your skin to itch, burn and crack. Sometimes the sole and sides of the foot are affected, becoming thickened and leathery in texture. Although locker rooms and public showers are often blamed for spreading athlete's foot, the environment inside your shoes is probably more important. It is also more common with age
Jock itch causes an itching or burning sensation around your groin. In addition to the itching, you will usually notice a red rash that may spread to the inner thighs, anal area and buttocks. This infection is mildly contagious. It can be spread by contact or sharing towels.
Ringworm often affects children. Symptoms are itchy, red, scaly, slightly raised, expanding rings on the trunk, face or groin and thigh fold. The rings grow outward as the infection spreads, and the central area begins to look like normal skin. This infection is passed from shared clothing, combs and barber tools. Pets also can transmit the fungus to humans.
- Practice good personal hygiene to prevent all forms of fungal infections.
- Use antifungal creams or drying powder two or three times a day until the rash disappears. Use medications that contain miconazole (Zeasorb-AF, Micatin), clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF, Mycelex OTC) or undecylenic acid (Desenex, Cruex).
FOR ATHLETE'S FOOT
- Keep your feet dry, particularly the area between your toes.
- Wear well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic materials.
- Don't wear the same shoes every day, and don't store them in plastic.
- Change socks (cotton or polypropylene) twice a day if your feet sweat a lot.
- Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and locker rooms.
FOR JOCK ITCH
- Keep your groin clean and dry.
- Shower and change clothes after exercise.
- Avoid clothes that chafe, and launder athletic supporters frequently.
- Thoroughly clean brushes, combs or headgear that may have been infected.
- Wash hands before and after examining your child.
- Keep your child's linens separate from the rest of the family's.
See your health care provider if symptoms last longer than 4 weeks or if you notice increased redness, drainage or fever. You may require treatment with prescription medications.