Causes of fungal skin infections
You’re more likely to get a fungal skin infection if you:
- are overweight
- don’t dry your skin fully after a bath or shower
- come into contact with a person or animal with a fungal skin infection
- touch contaminated items, such as clothes, towels and bedclothes
- walk barefoot in shower and pool areas
- wear tight clothing that doesn’t allow sweat to evaporate
- have diabetes
- have recently taken a course of antibiotics
- are pregnant
- have a weakened immune system, for example, if you have HIV/AIDS
Prevention of fungal skin infections
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting a fungal skin infection and stop an infection from spreading. Here are some tips.
- Dry your skin well after you have a bath or shower.
- Wash your socks, clothes and bed linen regularly to remove any fungi.
- Wear clean flip-flops or plastic shoes in communal areas, such as showers, saunas and swimming pools.
- Wear loose fitting clothes made of cotton, or a breathable material that’s designed to keep moisture away from your skin.
- Don’t share towels, hairbrushes or combs as they could be carrying fungi.
- Alternate your shoes every two or three days to give them time to dry out.
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
- If someone in your family has scalp ringworm, soak pillows, hats, combs or scissors with bleach and water.
If you have a fungal infection you can still go to work, and your child can still go to school. But remember to practise good hygiene to prevent spreading it to others.
FAQ: Can herbal remedies, such as tea tree oil, help with fungal infections?
There isn’t enough scientific evidence to say whether or not herbal remedies can help to treat fungal infections.
Some research has shown that tea tree oil may help against some types of fungi. However, there isn’t enough evidence to recommend using tea tree oil to treat fungal infections yet.
Try herbal remedies if you wish but don’t let this delay you seeking help from your pharmacist or GP. Another point to remember is that natural doesn’t mean harmless. Herbal remedies contain active ingredients and may interact with other medicines or cause side-effects. Don’t start taking any herbal remedies without speaking to your GP or pharmacist first.
FAQ: How long will it take for my nail to get back to normal after a fungal nail infection?
It can take up to a year, sometimes longer. But it depends on whether it’s your fingernail or toenail that’s affected and how well treatment works for you.
Treatment with antifungal medicines may get rid of your fungal nail infection. Usually they work better on fingernails than toenails, but don’t always cure the infection. Your GP may refer you to a dermatologist (a doctor who specialises in identifying and treating skin conditions) for more treatment.
You can buy some fungal nail infection lotions that you paint on your nail, over the counter. These work best if you treat the infection early. Another option is antifungal tablets. Or you might need to take both.
Tablets often work best, especially if the infection has spread past the edge of your nail. You might need to take tablets for up to a year and a half if you have a bad infection in your toenail.
It can take up to six months after you start treatment for fingernails to look normal again – and up to a year for your toenails. Sometimes your nails won’t return to normal.
Fungal nail infections can also come back – this happens to about a quarter of people.
FAQ: Will improving my foot hygiene get rid of my athlete’s foot?
It may help to control an infection, but it won’t usually be enough to get rid of athlete’s foot.
You will need to take medicines to treat athlete’s foot. But it’s a good idea to make sure you follow good hygiene practices too. This can prevent the infection spreading to other parts of your body, such as your toenails, or groin. It can also help to prevent athlete’s foot coming back.
Good hygiene measures include:
- wearing clean flip-flops or plastic shoes in damp communal areas, such as showers, saunas and swimming pools
- drying your feet well after you wash them, especially between your toes
- washing towels frequently, and not sharing them with others
- wearing a clean pair of cotton socks every day
- alternating your shoes every two or three days
- intermittently treating your feet with antifungal powder if you often get athlete’s foot
- The British Association of Dermatologists
0207 383 0266
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- Tinea cruris. The Merck Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, published March 2013
- Fuller LC, Barton RC, Mohd Mustapa MF, et al. British Association of Dermatologists’ guidelines for the management of tinea capitis 2014. Br J Dermatol 2014; 171(3):454–63. doi: 10.1111/bjd.13196
- Tinea capitis (or scalp ringworm). British Association of Dermatologists. www.bad.org.uk, published August 2014
- Intertrigo. Medscape. www.emedicine.medscape.com, published 4 September 2015
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- Tinea versicolor. The Merck Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, published March 2013
- Pityriasis versicolor. DermNet NZ. www.dermnetnz.org, published September 2014
- Candida – female genital. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, published December 2013
- Oral candidiasis. BMJ Best Practice. www.bestpractice.bmj.com, published 3 September 2015
- Joint Formulary Committee. British National Formulary (online) London: BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press. www.medicinescomplete.com, accessed 28 October 2015
- Fungal infections of the nails. British Association of Dermatologists. www.bad.org.uk, published March 2014
- HIV-related opportunistic infections. BMJ Best Practice. www.bestpractice.bmj.com, published 26 August 2015
- Fungal skin infection – scalp. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, published September 2014
- Fungal nail infections. PatientPlus. www.patient.info/patientplus, reviewed 12 October 2015
- Tinea pedis. The Merck Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, published March 2013
- The British Association of Dermatologists
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