Everyone thinks it is their embarrassing little secret - a constant itch (sometimes in an unmentionable area of the body), red and flaky skin, discoloured patches, or a stinging/burning sensation. 

However, what you may have is a fungal infection. Neither is it something to be embarrassed about nor do you have to suffer in silence. Let’s find out more about fungal infections. 

A fungus is a unicellular or multicellular living organism commonly found in all places including air, soil, plants, water, and your body. When a harmful fungus comes in contact with your skin and thrives in its warm and moist environment, it can cause a fungal skin infection. 

A fungal infection can affect various parts of your body, including the scalp, ear, groin, thighs, buttocks, toes, and nails. 

Common fungal infections are ringworm of the body and scalp, athlete’s foot, jock itch, candidiasis, and yeast infection. The usual symptoms are an itchy or scaly rash or discolouration of the skin. 

Fungal infections can spread through direct contact. However, they are preventable to a large extent if you follow basic hygienic measures. Let’s look at some of these measures.

Tips to Prevent Fungal Infections

1. Wear clean and dry clothes. Most people have a habit of reusing clothes a few times before they wash them. You can get fungal infections if you repeatedly wear unwashed clothes. Wear clean and dry clothes every day, especially undergarments and socks. 

2. Avoid wearing tight clothes and shoes. Sweat and dampness create the ideal environment for the growth of fungus. Wear loose clothes and shoes that allow your skin to breathe. 

3. Bathe at least once a day. This is the basic tenet of personal hygiene. Having a bath once a day is enough to maintain cleanliness. However, a shower is advisable after gyming or severe sweating. Make sure you are completely dry after showering or bathing. 

4. Keep your nails short and clean. Do not forget to clean your nails and the area under your nails thoroughly while bathing. 

Keep your nails short to help prevent the spread of infection and never cut your cuticles (the skin around your nails). Avoid sharing nail clippers with others and always clean them before and after each use. 

5. Keep yourself dry. Keep your feet, groins, underarms, and buttocks dry and clean. These are the most commonly affected areas in fungal infections because of dampness. 

Choose breathable material for clothes and shoes. Change out of wet underwear, socks, or clothes immediately.

6. Check if your family member has a fungal infection. Discuss with your family if anyone is showing signs of a fungal infection. Let your dermatologist know and start treatment at the earliest. 

Avoid sharing clothing, towels, or personal items such as combs with others as this could spread the infection. Wipe down shared surfaces with a disinfectant.

7. Avoid being barefoot. Wear sandals or flip-flops, especially in common areas such as gyms and locker rooms. You could catch fungal infections from the floor if you have cuts on your feet. 

8. Look after your diet. Add probiotics (foods with live bacteria beneficial to your health) to your diet as the bacteria can help your body fight against the harmful fungi that cause infections. 

Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet as sugar increases the risk of yeast infections. 

Do not be embarrassed or secretive about fungal infections. They are treatable and manageable. Seek medical help immediately if you notice signs of a fungal infection, and prevent your near and dear ones from getting infected.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.