An Unwanted Yoga Partner: Fungus

Yoga is good for your mind and body, including your skin. Yoga mats, on the other hand, might not be. Using someone else’s yoga mat for an hour could lead to an infection.

Fungus infections are common and appear as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and ringworm. Unfortunately, the fungus can survive on surfaces like mats long after the infected person has left. Although most people blame the gym locker room when they develop athlete’s foot, you can catch the fungus from a variety of places anytime you walk barefoot.

Fortunately, even if the fungus comes into contact with your skin, it doesn’t always lead to infection. Dry, cracked skin, or soft, wet skin disrupt your primary defense against the fungus — the densely packed barrier of skin cells, oils and proteins on your healthy skin’s surface. Here are 5 ways to prevent taking a fungus home with you from your next yoga class:

1. Bring your own mat. At least you know what you have.

2. Use an alcohol sanitizer on your hands and feet after your class. Sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are excellent at drying up the fungus and killing it long before it has a chance to infect you.

3. Clean your yoga mat. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and scrubbing will act as a fungicide. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the wash so that your neighbor doesn’t think that vinegar smell from your mat is coming from you.

4. Take a shower after class. Be sure to scrub your hands and feet with soap and water. Fungus sitting on the surface of your skin can easily be washed off.

5. Keep your skin healthy. Damaged, cracked, or moist skin is vulnerable skin. Dry your feet well and use antiperspirant on them if you have trouble keeping them dry. Moisturize daily to preserve a protective barrier of healthy skin which will keep infections out.

Photo: Terriko

Get Rid of Your Jock Itch Once and For All

I’ve been seeing a lot of jocks lately. The anatomical area, not the athletes. Summertime means heat and humidity, sports, and itchy groins. Jock itch is a general term for an itchy rash in the area. Heat, sweat, and skin rubbing on skin can leave the area looking like you slid into second base, groin first.

There are three main causes of an itchy groin. Classic jock itch is caused by a fungus, the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot. This fungus often causes a red scaly rash on the inner thighs. It tends to be dry and can have bumps or pimples. The fungus is often spread from your feet or from contaminated sports equipment, towels, etc. It can be treated with topical terbinafine cream 1% twice a day for 2-4 weeks. Severe cases can require oral anti-fungal medications, especially if the fungus has spread to other areas on your body.

The second cause of an itchy groin is a yeast infection (yes, the same yeast that can cause a vaginal yeast infection in women). The yeast grows well in warm, moist areas and causes a bright pink, moist, irritated rash. Unlike the fungus, yeast can spread onto the scrotum. It can be treated with topical clotrimazole cream 1% twice a day for 2-4 weeks.

The third common cause of a jock itch is a bacterial infection. Certain bacteria take advantage of the irritated skin and warm environment causing a rash called erythrasma. This can be treated with miconazole 2% cream twice a day for 2 weeks.

For all causes of jock itch it is important to keep the area clean and dry. Sometimes washing your groin with anti-dandruff shampoo such as zinc or selenium sulfide shampoos can help clear unwanted organisms. Hydrocortisone 1% cream can be added to any of the above treatments to reduce the redness and itching while the infection is being treated. Use it once to twice daily.

Remember, it is important to keep the area dry. The standard way is to use powders (some of which are medicated for an added bonus, such as Gold Bond). Once the active infection is resolved, treating your groin with your underarm antiperspirant can help keep this area dry, thereby making it less inviting for fungus and other organisms to return.

However, I don’t recommend spraying antiperspirant on your groin if you’re in the midst of a raging jock itch — you’ll spend the entire day scratching an area that shouldn’t be scratched in public.

Photo: jkstrapme (flickr)