Thursday, July 1, 2021

Tinea: a Fungus Among Us

Summer is officially here, so it's time to stay hydrated and deal with the temperatures as best we can. Record highs are being recorded all over the world -- Pakistan is giving Death Valley a challenge for the hottest on record at >120°F, and the Pacific Northwest is melting in >100°F heat. We've covered hydration before, so instead of rehashing that topic I will cover something that is more of a side-effect of the heat, a less-than-lethal problem that wears on morale and just makes everything more difficult: fungal infections.

We all have an ecosystem living on our skin. Various bacteria and fungi are natural residents in the cracks and creases of our bodies' outer covering. Some of them cause body odor as they break down dead skin cells (bathing keeps them under control) and others can cause different problems. One particular family of fungi really enjoys hot, humid conditions, and summer is when they can get a good chance to breed and spread. Here's a brief look at various Tinea infections.

Tinea is a fungus, but when it starts to grow it forms red, circular spot on your skin with clear skin in the center. It can often look like there is a worm is under the skin (it's also called "ringworm") but it's just a fungal infection; there are no creepy-crawlies living under your skin.

Once it gets past the red ring stage, Tinea can cause small blisters and patches of red skin. The blisters may ooze, keeping the area moist and further spreading the infection.

There are two common forms of Tinea infection:
  1. Athlete's foot, where the space between the toes gets red and raw, making walking irritating or painful.
  2. Jock itch, where the area around and near a man's scrotum is infected and gets the same raw, red, seeping condition. This can make life miserable, as walking rubs the raw skin against itself and even sitting is uncomfortable. 
It's always better to avoid a problem than to deal with one. Since fungi tend to like warm, humid, dark places, you need to work on eliminating those conditions.
  • Wash, with soap, the areas that are prone to infection regularly. Daily is good, but wash as often as conditions allow. This reduces the amount of fungus present and that gives your natural defenses a better chance of keeping them in check.
  • Dry the areas well after bathing, paying close attention to the spaces between your toes. Floss your toes with a dry towel to remove dead skin and really get the area dry.
  • Keep the areas dry. There are several types of powders on the market for this, but plain corn starch works just as well. Changing out your socks if they get wet or soaked with sweat is good preventative care and only takes a few minutes.
  • Changing your underwear daily works the same way as changing socks: it prevents a build-up of fungal spores that will increase the chance of an infection.
  • Don't share boots or shoes. Other people may have a slightly different type of Tinea that your body is not used to dealing with, which will make it easier for an infection to take hold.
  • Don't wear shoes or boots unless you have to. Unless you're in a fight-or-flight situation, take off your shoes and let your toes air out whenever you can. Open-toed shoes and sandals or going barefoot (not always safe) are good options, too.
  • If you normally wear briefs, consider switching to boxers at least for the summer. Increased air-flow will help keep the humidity and temperature lower, which reduces fungal growth.

If things didn't work out with preventing an infection, you'll have to treat it. 

For mild cases, getting and keeping the area clean and dry for a few days will clear it up. Moderate cases will require a topical treatment, typically some form of medication applied to the area as a powder or cream that will kill the fungus. Erin has written a good article on the various types of antifungal creams and their effectiveness, so go read that if you're in the market for antifungal creams. 

Severe cases will require medical treatment. There are several antifungal medications on the market by prescription only, but most of them are hard on the liver. The few times I've seen it used, the pills were only prescribed for a few days, but it did clear up the infection. 

Athlete's foot can make walking misery, and a bad case of what my construction worker friends call "monkey butt" can keep you from doing anything that requires movement. I know we're called Blue Collar Prepping, but at least a few of our readers are going to be unused to working outside. Something that is a minor inconvenience in normal times can be a major problem if the power goes out or you don't have access to air conditioning.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to