Fungi are microorganisms that include yeast, mold, and even mushrooms. They are found abundantly around the world, representing over 1.5 million species. The importance of fungus cannot be understated, for they are extremely important in the natural world – from recycling dead matter to promoting the growth of crops and plants, for its use in medicines, as food and in food processing, as natural pesticides, etc. However, they are also responsible for a host of diseases in plants and animals.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 300 species of fungus are known to be harmful to humans, causing infections. Sometimes, fatal diseases and conditions, such as pneumocystis pneumonia, aspergillus, or histoplasmosis, may occur in immunocompromised individuals.
The common fungal skin infections that affect people include candidiasis (yeast infection), ringworm, athlete’s foot, etc. Generally, it is not very easy to be rid of a fungal infection. The process may take many weeks. Here are a few general tips to prevent skin fungal infections and their spread to others:
- Keep the skin clean and dry (especially the groin region and armpits): Fungus requires a warm and moist setting for it to grow and thrive.
- Avoid walking barefoot frequently in public places: This is true in common areas like at a community pool, gyms, and locker rooms.
- Change your underwear or the pair of socks you wear every day.
- Wear cotton clothes instead of those made of synthetic material.
- Avoid sharing items of clothing, bedding, sheets, and even utensils. This can cause the rapid spread of fungal skin infections through direct contact.
- Use an anti-fungal powder regularly, particularly in hot humid climates, or if you frequent wet areas (due to sports or work requirements).
- Avoid tightfitting and thick clothing, particularly made of synthetic material, especially if you sweat a lot.
- Maintain common spaces that are regularly wet and frequented by many in a clean and hygienic condition.
- Avoid vaginal douches and perfumed deodorants, which may affect the ‘bacteria-balance’ in your body.
- Wash and clean your hands and legs after you work in gardens or farms, or after outdoor camping, where you are exposed directly to the soil.
- Certain fungal infections can spread from infected animals and pets such as from dogs and cats to humans. In such cases, the animals or pets may present with bald skin patches.
- Try to reduce your daily (chronic) stress, whether at home, school, or at the office.
Always treat any fungal infection immediately, for this will prevent them spreading to other parts of the body or from spreading to others.
Crissey JT, Lang H, Parish LC. Manual of Medical Mycology, Blackwell Science, Cambridge 1995. p.36.
Wilson EK, Deweber K, Berry JW, Wilckens JH. Cutaneous infections in wrestlers. Sports health 2013;5:423-37.
Pecci M, Comeau D, Chawla V. Skin conditions in the athlete. Am J Sports Med 2009;37:406-18.
http://www.aocd.org/?page=FungusInfectionsP (accessed on 12/31/2014)
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000880.htm (accessed on 12/31/2014)
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Gallin, J. I., Alling, D. W., Malech, H. L., Wesley, R., Koziol, D., Marciano, B., ... & Holland, S. M. (2003). Itraconazole to prevent fungal infections in chronic granulomatous disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(24), 2416-2422.
Romani, L. (2011). Immunity to fungal infections. Nature Reviews Immunology, 11(4), 275-288.
Weinstein, R. A., & Fridkin, S. K. (2005). The changing face of fungal infections in health care settings. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 41(10), 1455-1460.
Garber, G. (2001). An overview of fungal infections. Drugs, 61(1), 1-12.
Romani, L. (2004). Immunity to fungal infections. Nature Reviews Immunology, 4(1), 11-24.