Fungi are one of the most diversified groups of organisms on Earth.
They come in all shapes and sizes, including the mushrooms growing in your yard, the mold growing on old food, the mildew growing in wet areas, as well as the yeast that makes bread rise and beer ferment.
There are millions of different species of fungi, and only a small number of those are capable of making you sick.
Most Fungal Infections Are Not Terribly Dangerous
Most fungal infections that may appear on your skin are not serious. They can be irritating and unsightly, but they are generally not life-threatening. You will need treatment to get rid of the infection, but this is usually just an antifungal cream or an oral medication.
However, a fungal infection can be much more serious if you are living with a weakened immune system (due to HIV, cancer, or another condition, for example). Fungal infections in the lungs or the bloodstream can also be quite dangerous.
Common Types of Fungal Infections
There are many different types of fungal infections, but some of the most common include:
- fingernail or toenail infections
- athlete’s foot
- thrush (Candida yeast infection)
People that travel or live in other parts of the world may be exposed to and at risk for other types of fungal infections that are not common in the United States.
Also, people living with a weakened immune system are susceptible to a much wider range of fungal infections.
Keep Your Skin Clean and Dry
Fungi love warm, moist environments. So, the best way to prevent most fungal infections is to keep your skin clean and dry. This is especially important if you are sweating or have any cuts or scrapes on your skin.
- Remove wet or sweaty clothes as soon as possible, especially socks, shoes, and underwear.
- Clean any cuts or scrapes with soap and water and keep them covered.
- Thoroughly wash any areas of your body that have remained wet or sweaty for an extended period, and make sure to dry those areas well.
Stay Safe in Gyms, Locker Rooms, and Public Showers
The humid environments of gyms, locker rooms, and public showers are breeding grounds for fungi. Additionally, shared public spaces make it easy for fungi to spread from person to person.
- Wear shower shoes or flip-flops in these areas to minimize contact with potentially contaminated floors.
- Wipe off any gym equipment before and after use.
- Do not share towels, razors, or other personal items with others.
- Change out of your sweaty clothes and dry off completely as soon as possible after working out or playing sports.
- Use a foot powder or spray to keep your feet dry and healthy.
Good Hygiene at Home
In addition to protecting yourself when you are out and about, it is also important to practice good hygiene at home.
- Shower regularly, and make sure to dry off completely.
- Launder your clothes, towels, and bedding frequently, and make sure they fully dry in a timely manner.
- Clean and dry any areas of your home that are damp or wet, such as the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, and basement.
- Vacuum and dust regularly.
You Will Need Treatment
If you have a fungal infection, it will not go away on its own. You will need treatment to get rid of the infection.
Although antifungal creams and ointments are available over the counter, it is always best to see a doctor first. Fungal infections can closely resemble other conditions, so it is essential to get a professional diagnosis.
Your doctor can also help you choose the best treatment for your particular infection, which may involve prescription medications.
If you have a weakened immune system, be alert for any signs or symptoms of a fungal infection and seek medical attention immediately.