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Skin Problems

Fungal Infections

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Fungal infections of the skin most commonly affect the feet, groin, scalp, or nails. Fungi grow best in warm, moist areas of the skin, such as between the toes, in the groin, and in the area beneath the breasts.

Athlete's foot is the most common fungal skin infection. Symptoms include cracked, blistered, and peeling areas between the toes; redness and scaling on the soles of the feet; and itching. Athlete's foot often recurs and must be treated each time.

Jock itch causes severe itching and moistness on the skin of the groin and upper thighs. There may be red, scaly, raised areas on the skin that weep or ooze pus or clear fluid.

Ringworm is a fungal infection that grows on the outer layer of skin, hair, or nails. It is more common in children than in adults.

On the skin, ringworm appears as patches that are clear in the centre and have edges that are red, peeling, or have blister-like bumps. The skin is often very itchy. The rash can spread quickly.

On the scalp and beard, ringworm appears as round or oval patches of baldness, which may be scaly, red, crusty, or swollen with little blister-like bumps. The hair on the scalp and beard may have flakes that look like dandruff.

Fungal infections of the fingernails and toenails cause discolouration, thickening, and often softening of the nails. They are difficult to treat and often cause permanent damage to the nails.

Thrush is a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth, especially in babies. It causes a white coating inside the mouth, often on the cheeks, that may look like milk but is hard to remove. (Yeast infections also develop in the vagina. See Yeast Infections.)


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  • Keep your feet clean, cool, and dry. Dry well between the toes after swimming or bathing.

  • Wear leather shoes or sandals that allow your feet to "breathe," and wear cotton socks to absorb sweat. Use powder on your feet and in your shoes. Give shoes 24 hours to dry between wearings.

  • Wear thongs or shower sandals in public pools and showers.

  • Keep your groin area clean and dry. Wash and dry well, especially after exercising, and apply talcum powder to absorb moisture. Wear cotton underclothes and avoid tight pants and pantyhose.

  • Teach children not to play with dogs or cats that have bald or mangy spots on their coats.

  • Don't share hats, combs, or brushes.

Home Treatment

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  • Follow the Prevention guidelines.

  • For athlete's foot and jock itch, use a nonprescription antifungal powder or lotion, such as Micatin or Lotrimin AF. Use the medication for 1 to 2 weeks after the symptoms clear up to prevent recurrence. Do not use hydrocortisone cream on a fungal infection.

  • Ringworm on the body can be treated with one of the antifungals listed above.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If signs of infection are present:

    • Increased pain, swelling, heat, redness, or tenderness.

    • Red streaks extending from the affected area.

    • Continued discharge of pus.

    • Fever of 37.8°C (100°F) or higher with no other cause.

  • If you have diabetes and develop athlete's foot. People with diabetes are at increased risk for infection and may need professional care.

  • If you experience a sudden loss of patches of hair associated with flaking, broken hairs, and inflammation of the scalp; or if several members of your household are experiencing hair loss.

  • If ringworm is severe and spreading or is present on the scalp. Prescription medicine may be needed.

If Home Treatment fails to improve a fungal infection after 2 weeks or clear it up after 1 month, you may want to consider drug treatment. Discuss your options with your doctor.


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