Fungal infections

Family Health Diary

As the weather continues to become warmer we see more people coming into the pharmacy to ask for help with their fungal infections. Fungi are like mushrooms; they like warm moist conditions. They love to grow between the toes (athletes foot) or in the area at the top of the thighs (jock itch). Women are also more prone to thrush during summer.

We all have lots of fungi and bacteria growing all over our bodies all the time; most of the time this is not an issue and they keep each other in balance. When we get hot and sweaty over summer the fungi love it. They then grow faster and we start to get symptoms like itch or irritation.

Athletes foot (also known as tinea) is noticed when you get moist skin between the toes that becomes red and itchy. This can crack and bits of skin can peel off. Antifungal powders can help to prevent tinea but they won’t usually get rid of it. You need to use an antifungal cream. You can buy this from the pharmacy without needing a prescription.

Some people need to wear work boots all year round. Others wear sneakers (running shoes) a lot especially when on holiday or for exercise. If that’s you then you would be best to use antifungal powder in your socks and boots (or sneakers). Air-out your footwear as much as possible when you’re not wearing them. If possible have two pairs of work boots or sneakers to wear on alternate days; or clean dry socks to change into at lunch time. Wear bare feet or jandals as much as possible to let your feet completely dry out.

It is easy to catch a fungal infection from bathroom floors, bath mats or showers; especially in public places like swimming pools, and gyms. Anyone using public showers should wear jandals in the showers so they don’t pick up tinea from other people.

Jock itch is the same sort of fungal infection and it grows in the groin. It can be red and itchy and sometimes the infection grows down the inside of the thighs. The same as with athletes foot it is best to keep the area well aerated. Wear loose shorts and boxers if possible.

Use an antifungal cream from the pharmacy to get rid of the infection.

Thrush can be a problem for some women all the time and nearly all women some of the time. Same as for the other fungal infections this bug likes warm moist conditions. Wearing tight clothing on hot days can sometimes be a trigger. For some women thrush is hormone related. There are creams that can be purchased from the pharmacist to treat thrush. There is also an oral tablet that some people find useful and there is a specific probiotic that has been shown to help get rid of thrush. Talk to your pharmacist about which treatment is most suitable for you. If you get thrush a lot the pharmacist might suggest you check with the doctor to make sure you don’t have a sugar imbalance. Doctors can also prescribe long term treatments if you are having difficulty getting rid of the thrush.

With all fungal infections it is best to not use soap. Soap makes your skin more alkaline and the fungi love that. Any fragranced bath products can also be irritating if you already have an infection. There are non-soap washes and bars that are available in the pharmacy, some of these are anti-itch and anti-inflammatory. These washes or bars can relieve the itching and inflammation as well as restoring the acid (non-alkaline) surface to your skin. This will help to get rid of the fungal infection and prevent it coming back.

Keeping your skin clean and dry is the best way to prevent fungal infections. When you wash your body, dry off thoroughly before putting on clean dry clothes, socks and underwear. Change out of damp exercise clothes or swimwear as soon as possible and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine over summer.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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