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“An Ounce Of Prevention”: Could It Be A Fungus?

When the sun beats down, outdoor activity can cause you to sweat. This is good. It is the body protecting itself from overheating. But sweat can cause skin irritations, especially in folds of skin and damp places, like your shoes (and yes, your underdrawers)!

Warmth and dampness create ideal environments for fungus. They love the summer! Fungal infections are quite common at this time of the year. Common fungal infections of the skin are ringworm, Jock Itch and Athlete’s Foot. They all fall under the name “tinea” which refers to fungal infections of the skin. Ringworm of the scalp is called tinea capitis; ringworm of the body is called tinea corporis; athlete’s foot is called tinea pedis; and jock itch is known as tinea cruris.

Ringworm has nothing do to with worms. So if you are diagnosed with ringworm, don’t panic. You do not have worms crawling under your skin. The rash resembles a roundworm, hence the name. The source of this fungus (and most fungi) is the soil, an animal (like a cat, dog or rodent) or another person. It is most common in children. You can get it multiple times. It is hard to prevent. It is treated with antifungal ointments, shampoos or creams. It may also require an oral antifungal medication, depending on the severity of the infection.

You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot. Damp feet, especially in the same shoes everyday create a nice “greenhouse” for the fungi that causes athlete’s foot. Symptoms include itching or burning on the feet, redness, stinging, or flaking, peeling, cracked skin. The fungus can be picked up in public showers, pool areas, locker rooms and from shared towels. To help prevent athlete’s foot, dry feet well, especially between toes; avoid sharing towels; wear aqua shoes or sandals in locker rooms (this will also help to prevent warts); wear cotton or wool socks; rotate shoes; and when wearing sneakers, be sure they are well-ventilated. An over-the-counter antifungal cream or spray is the most common treatment. Occasionally, the use of an oral medication is required.

You don’t have to be a jock (or even male) to get jock itch. It most often occurs in the groin area and on the insides of the thighs. It can be itchy, red, and have flaking, peeling and cracked skin. It can hurt! To help prevent this condition, dry this area well after bathing and swimming. Powder or cornstarch can help keep this area dry during activities. Wear clothes that are loose enough to provide ventilation and prevent chapping. Wash clothing (including jock straps) frequently. As with athlete’s foot, it is most often treated with an antifungal cream or spray. It may on occasion require an oral medication.

This column was written by V. Deborah Culligan, Health Educator. For more written information on this topic, Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call QVHD, 203 248-4528 or request on line, dculligan@qvhd.org.

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