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Fungus among us

  • Published at 12:05 pm May 12th, 2013
Fungus among us

Fungal infections can be itchy and annoying, but they’re rarely serious. Common infections such as athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm are caused by fungus and are easy to get and pass around. In healthy people, they usually don’t spread beyond the skin’s surface, so they’re easy to treat.


Ringworm isn’t caused by worms. This raised, red, circular, itchy fungal infection can occur on the body or scalp. You’re at greater risk if you come in contact with contaminated items or a pet or person with ringworm. Prevent it by keeping your body clean and dry. It’s easily spread, so don’t share towels, combs, or other personal items.

Athlete’s foot

Itchy, burning, cracked, and peeling feet? Athlete’s foot is a form of ringworm that usually develops between the toes. It can spread via wet locker room floors and contaminated towels and shoes. Prevent it by wearing shower shoes at the gym, washing your feet daily, drying them well and wearing clean socks.

Jock itch

A raised, itchy, red rash around your groin means you probably have jock itch. It can be caused by sweating and the humid environment . You can prevent it by keeping your groin clean and dry, changing into dry, clean clothes and underwear every day, and avoiding tight clothing.

Nail fungus

Brittle, discoloured, thick nails may mean you have nail fungus. It can affect fingernails or toenails. Prevent nail fungus by keeping your hands and feet clean and dry, wearing dry socks and changing them often, wearing shoes in a public shower, pool,or locker room and not scratching infected skin, such as athlete’s foot. Wear wide-toed shoes (so toes aren’t crammed together), and don’t share nail clippers.

Caring for clothes

Change out of your clothes right after a workout. Sweaty gear provides a perfect home for fungi and other germs to thrive and grow. Wash clothes after each use. Wear clean clothes before each workout.

Hygiene at home

To prevent fungal infections from taking a foothold at home, your best defense is to keep skin clean anddry. Change underwear and socks daily. Let your sneakers air out and wash them regularly. Take your shoes off at home to expose your feet to the air. Avoid sitting on wet benches. Don’t share workout mats or towels. Wash your hands before and after a workout.

Treating fungal infections

If despite your best efforts at prevention, you think you have a fungal infection, then talk to your doctor. Other skin problems can look a lot like fungal infections but require different treatment. For mild infections, topical medication may be all you need. Stubborn infections could require oral prescription drugs.

Writer:Dr Syed Afzalul Karim, Associate professor, Dermatology Dept, Holy Family Hospital.