Fungal skin infection and fungal nail infection are gross and itchy, but they are not usually serious. Fungal infections like athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch are easy to pick up and transmit to others. Healthy people do not usually experience a spread of fungus beyond the surface of the skin, so they are easy to treat. If you spend a lot of time at the gym or public pool, follow these steps to guard against fungal infections.
Tinea, or ringworm, is an organism that may cause fungal infection on the scalp, fungal infections on the face, or infections on other areas of the body. Ringworm creates a characteristic fungal infection skin rash that is circular, raised, red, and itchy. People usually pick up ringworm from other people, pets, or contaminated items that carry the organism. Keep your skin clean and dry to help prevent ringworm. Avoid sharing personal items, including towels, hair brushes, and combs to avoid spreading the infection. Ringworm is easily transmissible.
Athlete's foot is a type of fungal infection on the feet. It results in cracked, itching, burning, and peeling between the toes. The infection is caused by a type of ringworm often found in locker rooms, gyms, pool areas, towels, and shoes. Always wear shower shoes when you are in communal showers or pool areas. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day. Air out your shoes and let them dry before wearing them again. Put on clean socks daily.
Jock itch is a fungal infection on the groin. This red, itchy, raised rash can affect both men and women. Jock itch is caused by a type of ringworm fungus. You're more likely to get it when you are sweating and in humid weather. Exercising in workout clothes causes the hot, humid conditions where jock itch flourishes. Minimize the risk of jock itch by keeping your groin area clean and dry. Wear fresh clothes and underwear daily. Steer clear of tight clothing.
Toenail fungal infection is very common. It appears as thick, yellowish, brittle toenails, although fingernails can be affected as well. Take the same precautions to avoid toenail fungus as you do to avoid other types of fungal infections. Keep hands and feet clean and dry. Wear clean socks and change them daily. Wear flip flops when you are in locker rooms, at the pool, and in communal shower areas. Choose wide-toed shoes. Do not share personal items like towels, grooming tools, razors, and nail clippers.
Minimize the risk of fungal infections by taking good care of your workout wear. Sweaty gym clothes are the perfect breeding ground for fungi and bacteria to grow. Wash workout wear right after you exercise. If you won't get to the laundry immediately, at least hang wet clothes up to air out. Turn clothes inside out before loading them into the washing machine to make the dirtiest parts of garments easier to clean. Add baking soda to the washer to help deodorize clothes. Add vinegar to the rinse cycle to further cut down on odors. Put on clean workout clothes before every workout.
What causes a fungal infection? You need the presence of a fungi, but you also need the environmental conditions that allow the infection to take hold and flourish. Minimize the risk of fungal infections at home by keep your skin clean and dry. Allow your sneakers and footwear to air out and dry before you wear them again. Put on clean socks and underwear daily. Go barefoot or wear sandals often to allow your feet to air out.
Gyms and locker rooms are common areas where it is easy to pick up fungal skin infections or fungal nail infections. Reduce your risk of picking up an infection by wearing clean, loose-fitting workout clothes to keep skin dry. Wear sandals or flip flops around pools, communal showers, and locker rooms. Wash your hands frequently and wash or sanitize them right after you work out. Disinfect exercise equipment before and after use. Shower right after you work out and throw your workout gear into the washer. If you won't do laundry immediately, hang up and damp garments to dry them out. If you have a cut or wound, keep it clean and covered and stay out of saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms until it has healed.
If you need fungal infection treatment, talk to your doctor. Some skin conditions looks like fungal infections, but they have a different underlying cause and require different treatment. Mild fungal infections may be treated easily with topical medication. If you have a severe or persistent infection, you may need prescription antifungals.
Fungal skin infections and fungal nail infections are annoying, but they are rarely serious. They usually just cause itching and irritation. If fungal skin infections are severe or worrisome to you, see your doctor for an evaluation and treatment.
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- American Academy of Dermatology: “How to Prevent Common Skin Infections at the Gym.”
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Tinea Infections: Athlete's Foot, Jock Itch and Ringworm," "Fungal Infections of Fingernails and Toenails."
- AARP: “5 Reasons Your Comfy Activewear Really Stinks.”
- American Family Physician: "Diagnosis and Management of Tinea Infections."
- American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Fungus Infections: Preventing Recurrence.”
- CDC: “Fungal Diseases,” "Lurking in the Locker Room."
- KidsHealth.org: “Fungal Infections (Ringworm, Yeast, etc.),” "Jock Itch."
- Mayo Clinic: “Nail Fungus.”
- National Institutes of Health: "Athlete's Foot: Overview."
- PubMed Health: "Ringworm."
- Simmons College: "Gym Hygiene: How to Reduce the Risk of Infections in the Gym."
- University of California, Davis: "Nail Fungal Infections."
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas: "Health Watch - Toxic Gym Clothes."