Fungi like to grow anywhere that’s warm and moist. You’ve probably seen them popping up in the garden as mushrooms, or invading food that’s been left out of the fridge a little too long.
Occasionally, fungus spores can also infect our skin. This fungus is usually called tinea or ringworm. Here, ringworm refers to the type of fungi, it doesn’t have anything to do with worms!
Tinea usually chooses our warmest and sweatiest spots to grow, like between our toes and in the groin. For those of you who’ve had tinea, you’ll know that it’s not a very pleasant experience. It can smell pretty bad and make you so itchy that you can’t stop scratching.
The good news is that tinea is relatively harmless, and simple treatments are available that can help you get rid of it for good.
How do you get tinea?
Everyone has a little bit of bacteria and fungi on their skin. This is natural and healthy because our skin acts as a barrier protecting our bodies from these kinds of infections. It’s only when fungi are allowed to thrive in their favourite conditions a warm, damp environment - that fungi can multiply and get out of control.
Tinea is more common in hot, humid climates and spreads quite easily from person to person by skin contact, or indirectly through towels, clothes and even floors. Generally, anywhere you’ll find lots of warm, damp feet is an ideal breeding ground for tinea. Places like public showers, communal changing rooms, gyms and swimming pools are just some of the typical infection sites.
Things that keep your feet warm and damp also encourage tinea. This could be:
- Playing lots of sport. It causes your feet to spend a fair bit of time in sweaty sneakers.
- Swimming a lot. Extra moisture in your feet can soften your skin and allow fungi in more easily.
- Wearing nylon or acrylic socks. These will make your feet sweat more.