Look out for skin-related fungal infections
It’s the end of the golden weather for another year, but some people still wander around bare-footed – with the potential to pick-up fungal infections of the feet (‘‘athlete’s foot’’), or out jogging getting hot and sweaty.
If sweat builds-up in the groin area for example, it can lead to another type of fungal infection commonly known as ‘‘jock itch’’.
Skin-related fungal infections occur mainly in warm, moist areas, for example within skinfolds, under the breast, around the groin, in the vagina and between the toes.
Initially the skin can look red and rash-like, but can also be scaly, cracked and peeling, and become inflamed and very itchy (athlete’s foot).
With jock itch, the skin is itchy with raised red patches and sharp borders.
In contrast, ringworm – a fungal infection that can occur after direct contact with an infected animal – usually appears on the arms, legs, face, neck or body-trunk as a flat, red, itchy, ring-shaped sore that is clear at the centre but with a red scaly boarder.
Infected skin can become uncomfortable – especially if hot, and painful. At its worst, the skin can split and secondary bacterial infection can occur.
Athlete’s foot is easy to catch from walking around public swimming pools, camp ground facilities and other areas where there are puddles of water through which many people walk in bare feet. The fungi organisms can live in the puddles – thriving in the warm and moist conditions, and on surfaces that infected people have touched and onto which their shed skin has settled. ‘‘If you have itchiness and flaky skin between your toes’’, caution Self Care pharmacists, ‘‘or notice a red scaly spot on your skin, you are likely to have a fungal infection. You need to come and see us so we can advise about the best care and treatment options.’’
Self Care pharmacists will also advise about ways to prevent getting fungal infections in the future, or passing them on to others. Such advice includes:
• Keep dry the skin areas prone to infection. This is important especially after sweaty sports and bathing/showering. Wash sweaty areas and towel-dry well. Maybe use a hair dryer to dry between the toes.
• Don’t wear tight clothing for long periods (because it can lead to moisture build-up on the skin), or clothing made from fabrics that stop moisture wicking away from the skin.
• Wear flip-flops in public showers and when walking around swimming pools, or wear other suitable footwear that protects your feet from contact with the ground and prevents them pickingup any fungal organisms.
• Don’t share clothing, shoes, towels, etc.
• Let sweaty shoes dry out thoroughly before re-wearing them.
• Change socks and underclothes daily.
• Inspect your pets for fungal infections and treat them if necessary.
• Eat in a healthy way (the Weight and Health and Reducing Your Cholesterol fact cards offer guidance), keep fit and get plenty of sleep. It means your immune system can do its best to help ward-off fungal infections.’’
If you do end-up with a skin infection, treatment is with a specific antifungal preparation available from your local Self Care pharmacy. The type of preparation best for you – cream, powder, lotion or spray – will depend on the area being treated. According to Self Care pharmacists, ‘‘that is part of the counselling service we provide.’’ Normally preparations have to be used for two weeks to clear the infection, and for a further week or two after that to prevent a return.
Days of bare feet on the beach are over, it’s time now to look out for fungal infections.