Skin fungus, the most common skin condition, is caused by a group of fungi that attack the skin, particularly in the feet, groin, hands and scalp. These infections can spread quickly from one person to another and manifest themselves in conditions like ringworm, tinea versicolor, athlete's foot, jock itch or candida. The good news about skin fungus is that most of these uncomfortable conditions can be successfully treated at home.
Self-Care for Fungus
To treat a skin infection at home, keep the affected skin dry and clean. This prevents the fungus from spreading. Then, use an over-the-counter anti-fungal powder, lotion or cream to kill the fungus. The National Institutes of Health recommends that patients look for treatments containing miconazole, tolnaftate or clotrimazole, which are nonprescription anti-fungal medications.
Because skin fungus can spread rapidly, wash your sheets daily while you are infected. Also, if you do not regularly wash the clothing that is touching the infected area, do so. If you are dealing with a fungal infection of the foot, wear clean socks to prevent the infection from spreading to your shoes and back to your feet.
Remember that fungus is not always visible on your skin, even when it is living there. You can expect the symptoms to get better three to four weeks after you start self-care. However, continue using the cream or lotion for one to two weeks after symptoms are gone, to ensure that the infection will not return.
Sometimes fungal infections of the skin do not respond to over-the-counter treatment. If you have been treating the infection for two to four weeks without improvement or have continual recurrences of your condition, talk to your doctor. Mayo Clinic states that your doctor will likely prescribe a prescription-strength anti-fungal cream along with an oral anti-fungal medication. This two-step treatment is more effective at killing the fungus.
The prescription anti-fungal creams include ketoconazole, ciclopirox or selenium sulfide. The oral medications include fluconazole, itraconazole or ketoconazole. Some patients who live in warm, humid climates experience frequent fungal infections, and they must take the medication monthly to keep the infection from returning.
Prevention of Fungus Infections
The best way to treat a fungal skin infection is to avoid having one altogether. Fungus needs dark, warm and moist areas to live. To prevent these infections, keep your skin dry and avoid applying oily products to it. Do not wear tight clothing that is not well ventilated. Also, keep your skin dry, especially the skin on your scalp, which is prone to fungal infections.
Fungus spreads easily from person to person, as it can live for a while on non-human surfaces. The Institutes of Health recommends that you never share towels, combs, headgear, brushes or other personal care items with other people to avoid these infections. Also, if you are showering, bathing or swimming in a public place, wear shower shoes or sandals to prevent contact with the fungus that causes athlete's foot. Fungus can also be spread from animals to people. If you notice a pet with a bald spot, which could indicate a fungal infection, do not touch the animal.