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Fungal infections - watch out for tinea!

fungus; tinea; jock itch; ringworm; itch; anti fungal; infection; itch ;

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tineaSome germs love to get into areas of your body where it is warm and moist. They move in, get together and start growing and spreading. Fungal diseases are particularly keen on finding such places.

A common fungal disease, which can affect kids, is tinea.

Tinea sometimes causes athlete's foot but you don't have to be an athlete to get it! It can also cause ringworm on other parts of the body (although it isn't a worm). Confusing isn't it?


What is a fungus?

Fungi (that's what we call more than one fungus) are really tiny living plants. They grow in lots of places such as in dirt and on food. They can also grow on the skin, in the hair and even in the nails of almost all living creatures. Sounds a bit yucky doesn't it? Mushrooms and toadstools are fungi too, but they are very different to the ones that grow on the skin. Fungi can come in lots of different shapes and colours - have you seen the green or brown fungi that grow on very old bread?.

tineaMany fungi are really helpful to us. Without their help we would not have cheese or antibiotics like penicillin, which has saved millions of lives since Howard Florey (a South Australian) discovered its value in 1938.

Some of them, however, are bad guys, such as the ones that make food go bad and, of course, the ones that give us fungal diseases like tinea.


What tinea looks like

  • tineaTinea doesn't always look the same.
  • It may be that the skin between the toes (especially the small ones) looks whitish and like it is cracking and peeling.
  • There could be redness, flaky skin or blisters along the sides and bottoms (soles) of the feet.
  • It may be really itchy (but it isn't always itchy).
  • Tinea on other parts of the body can look like a red or pink scaly patch.
  • You could get a patch in your hair where the hairs break. You get a bald spot.

There are other things that cause rashes such as allergies or bacteria (different types of germs) so it is a good idea to see a doctor before you start buying and using any medication.

tinea on the arm If you are a little kid then it is unlikely that you would get tinea on your feet, as it doesn't often affect kids under twelve. But you can get it on the rest of your body, including on your head.

How to prevent athlete's foot

If you have reached puberty, you have started to be aware of body odour. If you are old enough to get body odour then you are old enough to get athlete's foot.

Boys are more likely than girls are to get athlete's foot.

  • Wash your feet at least once a day.
  • Always dry your feet really well, especially between the toes. If you can't get a towel in there, use a face washer or even blow dry between your toes with a hair drier.
  • If your feet get sweaty, wear only cotton or wool socks (no nylon or polyester) and change them often.
  • Don't wear tight shoes, especially when it is hot (sandals are good in hot weather).
  • Leave your shoes to dry out overnight where the air can get to them, or wash them regularly if they can be washed.
  • Don't share towels and socks.
  • If you are using showers in public places (such as swimming pool change rooms or caravan parks), wear thongs on your feet in the shower so that you don't pick up flakes of skin which may have tinea on them from other people's feet.

If you're thinking that all these things are what you do to deal with sweaty feet, then you are right! Tinea fungus really adores anyone whose feet get all hot and sweaty. If your feet do, then you are more likely to get tinea.

I guess you understand now why it is also called 'athlete's foot' - because athletes get hot and sweaty!

How to get rid of athlete's foot

First, find out that it is tinea by visiting your doctor and find out what treatment you need.

Apart from keeping clean and dry feet, there are some other things you can do.

  • You can use antifungal creams or lotions twice a day, on clean dry feet. It can take a couple of weeks of treatment before the tinea has gone. ('antifungal' means it kills fungi).
  • Wash your hands carefully before and after using the medication because you can also get a fungal infection on other parts of you - like hands and fingers.
  • If you have toenails which are also affected then it will take longer to get rid of. You may also need to get some oral medication (medicine that you swallow) from your doctor.
  • If you have the blistery, watery kind of tinea then your doctor might tell you to soak your feet in fairly hot water twice a day before using the cream. Don't forget that drying is really important. Make sure that the water is not so hot that it burns your skin.
  • If you are really sore, use strips of cloth or old sheet between your toes so that they don't rub against each other while you are soaking your feet.
  • Small pieces of sheepskin (you can buy at the chemist) are good to keep your toes apart after you have treated them. Don't use cotton balls as they go really hard and uncomfortable after a while.
  • If you have had athlete's foot, shake an antifungal foot powder into your shoes during summer.
    tinea
  • Don't wear the same shoes all the time and if you can, air your shoes before wearing them again.

Ringworm

A round patch of tinea, called ringworm, can appear anywhere on your body, including your head. If you get ringworm, you may have to have a good look at any pets you are close to.

 

petsPets like cats and dogs can get some types of ringworm and you can get it from them as well as from other people. See our topic 'Pets - Keeping yourself safe', for what they can do for you and what to watch out for.

 

  • Check with your doctor to see if it is ringworm.
  • You will need to be very careful about cleaning and drying the area.
  • Use an antifungal cream or lotion.
  • You may need to treat your pet for ringworm (but not with the same cream you're using! - check with a vet).

Fungal infections can take a while to clear up and you may have to keep up the treatment for a few weeks, even after the rash seems to have gone, just to make sure.

Dr Kate says

Dr Kate"Lots of kids get tinea on their feet from wet floors (such as at a swimming pool). If you walk on wet floors, make sure you dry your feet very well.  Thongs are good for keeping your feet off wet floors in public showers and change rooms."

Phew, sweaty feet!

If your shoes are too tight
And they're squashing your toes.
If your socks are so sweaty,
They wrinkle your nose
Then hop in the tub
And soak your poor feet
Dry them off well
They'll smell more sweet.
Apart from your friends
Who now can get near,
Of fungal diseases
You need have no fear!

BH

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.

 

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