Skin fungal infections are common among children and adults who may acquire the infection from others or experience an over growth of harmless fungi in the skin. However, most skin fungus infections can be treated and prevented effectively.
Symptoms of Skin Fungal Infections
1. Dermatophyte Infections
Most skin fungus infections are caused by dermatophytes, which may affect the skin, hair, and nails. These infections include:
- Athlete's Foot. One out of four adults acquire athlete's foot, also called tinea pedis. The skin between the toes is usually affected.The affected area may be infected by both fungus and bacteria which causes the skin to become itchy, scaly, dry, red, and blisters as well as cracked skin can appear. Athlete's foot may be acquired by walking barefoot around swimming pools, saunas and public showers. Touching the contaminated area can lead the fungal infection to spread to the creases of the palms and sides of the fingers.
- Onychomycosis. Fungal infection of the nails is called onychomycosis. Ringworm of the nails is a common infection. The nails become deformed, thick and crumbly. Toenails may also be affected by athlete's foot.
- Jock Itch. Jock itch commonly occurs in sportsmen and other young men. This skin fungus causes itching and red rashes in the groin and surrounding areas among men who sweat a lot. People who have athlete's foot can spread this infection by scratching the groin after scratching infected feet.
- Scalp Infection. Young children are often affected, causing inflammation and hair loss. One can also be infected without developing symptoms, becoming a carrier of the skin fungus, which can spread to others.
- Body Infection. This fungus affects exposed body areas, such as the limbs. It causes raised or flat red patches or rings that can grow, merge, and spread. These rings appear scaly at the edges and clear in the middle.
2. Yeast Infections
- Thrush. Thrush affects the mouth, tongue, vagina, and other areas that are moist, appearing like white patches, but leave red marks when rubbed off. Vaginal thrush causes itchiness and secretion of a thick, white vaginal discharge. It can also affect men, causing painful red rashes on the tip of the penis. Newborn babies can have oral thrush, where white patches in the mouth are mistaken for residual milk. This is not a serious infection, although babies may refuse feeding when the throat is affected. Babies can also develop this infection in the diaper area.
- Intertrigo. Intertrigo is caused by Candida albicans, this infection affects skin folds where the environment is moist and warm, such as the groin, armpits, and under fat folds. It causes itching, sometimes soreness, scales and spots, and appearance of white-yellow substance in the affected area.
- Pityriasis Versicolor. Characterized by various colors, this infection appears as dark patches on pale skin and light skin patches on darker skin.
Home Remedies for Skin Fungal Infections
A doctor usually suspects fungal infection when the medical history and physical examination are characteristic of the condition. Skin fungus infections may be relieved in many ways:
- Keep the skin clean and dry, and avoid scratching.
- Strengthen the immune system such as taking regular exercises so that the antifungal therapy can work effectively.
- Use vinegar baths to prevent fungal infections from spreading. You can soak in a tub of warm water with a cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. This works best for candida infections.
- Use antifungal creams, mild topical hydrocortisone cream and other medications to treat infected skin.
- Use broad-spectrum medications for treating skin fungal infections like fluconazole, terbinafine, and itraconazole.
- Sometimes bacterial infection occurs with fungal infections. Treatment should therefore include antibiotics, but it is best to first seek a doctor's advice.
Preventions for Skin Fungal Infections
- Consult your doctor if you think that you or someone in the family has skin fungus infection.
- Wash your hands and feet often and keep them dry. Bathe daily and use your own clean towel for drying.
- Wear different pairs of socks and shoes to give them a chance to damp or air-dry. Disinfect your towels, linens, pillows, combs, or brushes by using bleach.
- Never share or borrow socks, shoes, hats, brushes or combs with anyone, especially if they have ringworm.
- Wear sandals or shoes when walking in public pools, locker rooms, and showers.
- Use talcum powder, baking soda, or medicated foot powder to help reduce sweating and use antiperspirant deodorant to prevent armpit sweating.
- Wear clean underwear (preferably made of cotton) and avoid tight-fitting pants. Wear clothes made of breathable material especially when humidity is high to prevent excessive sweating.
- Treat cats and dogs, which have become infected with ringworm.