Fungal skin infections
- General Information
- See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional
- Treatment Tips
- Treatment Options
- More Information
Areas commonly affected by fungal infections include the skin, scalp, feet, fingernails and toenails, mouth and vagina. Fungi need a warm, wet place to grow and they thrive on hot, sweaty skin, especially between your toes, in your groin and under your armpits.
There are two common types of fungal skin infection; tinea and candida.
Tinea infections are known as ringworm when found on your trunk, limbs or scalp. Tinea is known as athlete's foot when your feet are affected, or jock itch when your groin area is affected. Thrush is the name for candida infections in the mouth, vagina or nappy area in babies. It can also occur under breasts, armpits or in your groin.
Fungal infections can spread from person to person via bathroom or shower floors, towels or clothing, or from animals or soil to people.
Athlete’s foot is also known as tinea pedis. It is a fungal infection of the skin between your toes, which can spread further on your foot if left untreated. It appears as a patch of soft, white, cracked skin, sometimes with red areas visible beneath. Athlete’s foot may cause itching, burning or stinging and can create an unpleasant odour. It spreads via wet floors and shared footwear or towels.
Fungal nail infections
Fungal nail infections (also called tinea unguium or onychomycosis) are often caused by the spread of athlete’s foot but can occur on their own. The nail looks thick and discoloured (white or yellowish). The nail may be brittle or crumbly and parts, or all of it, may fall off.
With jock itch (also known as tinea cruris) the groin and inner thigh become red and itchy. It is more common in men than women, and often occurs if you also have athlete’s foot, since the infection can be spread from foot to groin.
Ringworm is also known as tinea corporis. It is not caused by a worm but has this name because it can look like there is a worm under the skin. Patches of ringworm are circular, red and itchy. They have a raised edge and an area of clear skin in the middle.
Thrush (vaginal thrush, oral thrush and nappy rash)
Thrush is also known as candidiasis (infection with candida).
Symptoms of vaginal thrush include itching, irritation or a burning sensation in your genital area. There may be a thick, white or creamy vaginal discharge.
Oral thrush causes your mouth to be sore and look red. There may be white patches visible on your tongue and inside your cheeks. Eating and drinking can be uncomfortable. It is more common in babies, people who wear dentures, and people with diabetes or with asthma who use steroid inhalers. It can also affect those who have conditions affecting their immune system, and can occur after a course of antibiotics.
Sometimes nappy rash can be due to a thrush infection. When this happens, the area looks bright red and shiny and there may be white spots. The rash may spread into the creases of the baby’s groin.
See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional
- if the infection is in your mouth, vagina, nails, scalp or beard
- if you have blistered, broken or raw skin
- if the itching is very severe
- if you have had repeated infections or the area affected is large
- if you have been treated for a fungal infection and it has not worked
- if the infection started in a baby’s nappy area but has spread, or the baby has other symptoms (e.g. fever)
Athlete’s foot and nail infections
- bleach the shower and bath areas to prevent spreading and reinfection
- wash your socks and towels in hot water
- wear thongs in communal changing areas to prevent spreading the infection
- if you have sweaty feet, use an antiperspirant to help prevent athlete’s foot developing
Jock itch and ringworm
- keep the area of skin dry
- avoid sharing towels, bedding and clothing and wash them frequently
- if you have ringworm, have any pets checked for signs of infection
e.g. aluminium chlorohydrate (Neat Feet Roll On Deodorant, 3B Action Cream )
- as prevention, antiperspirants are used to reduce sweating, which makes the skin drier and less likely to grow fungi
- 3B Action Cream can be applied to the buttocks, between the legs or under the breasts.
Topical antifungals for tinea (athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm)
e.g. zinc undecanoate (Pedoz dusting powder), tolnaftate and chlorhexidine (Mycil Healthy Feet)
e.g. bifonazole (Canesten Once Daily Bifonazole Cream 1%, Mycospor), clotrimazole (Canesten Clotrimazole), econazole (Pevaryl Topicals), ketoconazole (DaktaGOLD, Nizoral Cream), miconazole (Daktarin, Resolve range), terbinafine (Lamisil Cream, Lamisil DermGel, SolvEasy Tinea Cream)
- topical antifungals are available as creams, gels, liquids, spray powders and powders; ask your pharmacist which product is most suitable
- most antifungal products stop the growth of fungi but do not kill them
- continue treatment for at least 14 days after the area has healed because the body needs to shed the infected skin for complete eradication of the fungi
- products such as terbinafine do kill the fungi, meaning treatment courses are shorter
- athlete’s foot can be treated with terbinafine for just one week, in most cases
- there are also products available which combine an antifungal agent with hydrocortisone (steroid) cream [Pharmacist Only products], such as Daktacort and Resolve Plus (miconazole + hydrocortisone) and Hydrozole (clotrimazole + hydrocortisone)
- these combination treatments can be useful if there is severe itching
- these combination products should be used for a maximum of two weeks, then a product containing an antifungal alone should be used for the rest of the treatment
- Mycil Healthy Feet dusting powder can be used to prevent athlete’s foot from recurring; sprinkle into socks and shoes each day
Treatments for thrush infections of the skin
- for thrush infections of the skin, the same treatments may be used as for tinea infections but terbinafine is less effective for thrush
- nystatin (Mycostatin Topical (cream) [Pharmacy Only] is also effective
- nystatin should be applied twice a day and be continued for 14 days after the area has healed
- nystatin may stain clothing
- if the thrush infection is vaginal, talk to your pharmacist; there are other specific products available to treat this
Treatments for thrush infections of the mouth
e.g. miconazole (Daktarin Oral Gel), nystatin (Mycostatin Oral Drops, Nilstat Oral Drops)
- these should be held in the mouth for as long as possible then swallowed
Availability of medicines
- GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
- PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
- PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.
Last Reviewed: 06/05/2009
Ringworm is a type of tinea - a fungal skin infection. The main symptom is round patches of dry, scaly, red skin. Read our fact sheet to find out how to treat and prevent ringworm.
Jock itch (tinea cruris)
An itchy rash in the groin area could be jock itch. Find out the causes, symptoms and treatment, plus self-help tips for this fungal infection.
Athlete's foot is a fungal skin infection that is also known as tinea pedis. It commonly causes skin itch, especially between the toes.
Common foot care problems include fungal foot infections, e.g. athlete's foot and fungal nail infections, and warts, corns and calluses. Find out what products are available for foot care.
Fungal nail problems
Fungal nail infections: risk factors, symptoms, treatment and how to prevent fungal infections of the nails.