What causes a fungal skin infection?
Fungal skin infections are more commonplace than you might think and this is in part due to their variety. There are so many different types of infections, from ringworm to athlete’s foot, to even thrush! What they all share in common is that they all appear when harmful species of fungi start to proliferate in an area of the body, and your immune system becomes overwhelmed.
This then causes the typical signs of an infection to appear: the itchiness, the irritation, the redness and the change in thickness or appearance of your skin. Understandably, these symptoms can be very uncomfortable and unpleasant to experience so, naturally, most people want to get rid of them as soon as possible.
How you go about treating your fungal skin infection will really depend on the severity of the infection, though. Mild infections can usually be treated by a visit to your pharmacist and over-the- counter medication but, in some cases, you will need to speak to your doctor.
When should I speak to my doctor?
As I’ve mentioned, if you have a very mild fungal skin infection, your local pharmacist should be able to recommend some over-the-counter products to assist with treatment. However, if these options do not work and your symptoms show no sign of clearing, then it might be time to consider consulting your GP.
On the other hand, some sufferers may need to speak to their doctor straight away: if you’re presenting symptoms such as extreme itchiness or a burning sensation or there has been a huge change in the appearance of your skin. If blisters or sores have manifested, for example, or your skin is starting to crack and peel, then these can be signs that you might need further medical help.
It’s also important to be aware that, sometimes, it’s not easy to tell whether or not you have a fungal infection or whether other factors could be at play. That’s why it’s important to speak to your doctor so they can achieve an accurate diagnosis. They will be able to take samples from your skin so, if you do have a fungal infection, they should be able to identify what species of fungi is specifically affecting you. This should allow for more accurate treatment going forwards.
How do I prevent the symptoms from getting worse?
It makes sense that, if you are already suffering from a fungal skin infection, you’ll want to stop the infection from getting worse than it already is and stop it from potentially spreading. That’s why, here, I’m going to discuss a few tips and suggestions you can try to implement to help stop the spread of the infection and prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
Dry your skin thoroughly
Fungi love warm, moist environments; they’re ideal for multiplying! If you want to avoid your fungal skin infection getting worse, make sure you’re drying your body thoroughly after washing or bathing. Pay attention to every area of your body here – don’t ignore your feet! Athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections are extremely common so it’s worth being extra cautious with this area!
Wash your bedding, towels and clothing regularly
Fungal skin infections can be contagious so make sure that you’re regularly washing things like your clothing, your bedding and towels. Don’t share possessions like combs, hair brushes or face cloths with anyone as this could increase their risk of becoming infected too. Socks and shoes are of particular note here so, once again, make sure that you’re changing and cleaning these items regularly.
Don’t wear tight or restrictive clothing
As I mentioned earlier, warm, damp environments only offer fungi more opportunity for proliferation. If it’s a warm day and you’re out wearing tight or black clothing then this will make you more prone to sweating. This is especially true if you’re exercising, so try to bear this in mind when choosing your workout clothes. Loose, breathable fabrics are always best and, once again, make sure you’re regularly changing items like socks if you’ve just been to the gym or spent time outdoors on a hot day.
Be careful where you expose your skin
Letting your skin breathe can be very beneficial if you have a fungal skin infection as it can cool down a warm area and prevent sweat from accumulating. However, where you expose your skin really matters. If you’re at the gym, going swimming or are in an environment that’s otherwise questionable, then you could just be opening yourself up to more infections. Avoid exposing your skin here and instead choose a safer, cleaner environment, such as your own home.
Support your immune system
Your immune system is important for protecting your skin from foreign pathogens and toxins but, in the case of a fungal skin infection, it can become overwhelmed. If you already know your immune system is weak (perhaps you’re recovering from a cold or flu), then you’re going to want to look at supporting this area and maintaining its efficiency. Our Immune System Expert, Dr. Jen Tan, speaks more about immune support over at A.Vogel Talks Immune System and I’d highly recommend checking out his blog, ‘How to boost your immune system’, for more tips and advice here.
Are there any natural remedies I can try?
If you have a particularly vicious fungal skin infection, then it’s more important that you focus on conventional treatments and the medications prescribed to you by your doctor, as I mentioned earlier. However, if your fungal skin infection is mild, then it might be helpful to try a few natural remedies to help get rid of it, alongside any medicines from your local pharmacy.
Let’s start with apple cider vinegar. Our Digestion Advisor Ali has mentioned this product in regards to low stomach acid, but here I’m going to focus mainly on its natural antifungal properties. Apple cider vinegar has been found to help kill excess yeast, specifically the candida variety. You can try taking apple cider vinegar internally or you could apply a diluted solution externally to the affected area.1
After apple cider vinegar, we have a slightly smellier solution: garlic. Garlic has been used in traditional medicines for centuries and for good reason – it can help to boost your immune system and it’s antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal. Similar to apple cider vinegar, there is some evidence to suggest that garlic could help to counter the effects of certain strains of fungi, such as candida.2 You can try to include more garlic in your diet or, again, you can apply it topically by making a paste using crushed garlic cloves.
Next, there are herbs like spilanthes. Spilanthes is also antifungal and antimicrobial against a wide variety of fungi. One study, conducted in 2015, looked more specifically at these benefits by examining the efficacy of spilanthes against root canal pathogens. The study concluded that the herb possessed remarkable antimicrobial and antifungal properties against such pathogens, thus highlighting its efficiency in this area.3
Finally, there’s coconut oil. This is an extremely popular and affordable remedy, particularly for ringworm sufferers. In addition to being antimicrobial, coconut oil is also anti-inflammatory so it can be very soothing for your skin, helping to ease any redness or irritation. Studies have found that coconut oil, especially, can be very useful in C.albicans infections, with one finding a tenfold colonisation in mice fed coconut oil.4 Of course, this was an animal-based trial but the results are promising.