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Reducing the Risk of Fungal Infections

Friday 5 February 2021
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is Fungus?

II. Maintaining a Strong Immune System

III. Fungi’s Favorite Environments

IV. Natural Treatments, OTC Products, and Prescriptions

What is Fungus?

A fungus is a primitive organism, which means it has a simple body structure that has not changed much over a long period. Examples of fungi include mushrooms, mold, and mildew. Fungi are all around us. They can live in air, soil, plants, and water. When they live in the human body, fungi can affect our well-being. About half of all fungi are harmful to humans. [1]

Fungal infections often occur on the feet, hands, nails, and groin. There are various reasons why these spots on the body are susceptible. The good news is that doctors have developed excellent treatments for fungal skin infections. [2] Common medications used to treat fungal infections include Lotriderm cream (clotrimazole/betamethasone), Diflucan (fluconazole), and Spectazole (econazole). Read on to learn how to reduce your risk of getting a fungal infection.

Maintaining a Strong Immune System

People with weak immune systems are at a higher risk of getting a fungal infection than people with otherwise healthy immune systems. Fungal infections that target weak immune systems are called opportunistic infections. A weak immune system may be the result of illnesses such as HIV and AIDS. Corticosteroids and chemotherapy have also been known to lower your immune system’s ability to combat infections. [3]

a sliced grapefruit

To reduce your risk of getting an opportunistic infection, try the following steps to improve your immune system:  

  • Eat well. Your immune system requires enough nutrients to stay strong. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can ensure you are getting the nourishment you need. Citrus fruits (grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, and lemons), red bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, almonds, papaya, kiwi, and shellfish are great for providing you with vitamin C, vitamin B, potassium, magnesium, folate, and zinc. [4]
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is detrimental to your immune system in many ways and can lead to complications that increase your risk of fungal skin infections. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, it is best not to start. [5]
  • Minimize stress. Stress causes your body to produce the stress hormone corticosteroid. Corticosteroid suppresses your immune system and increases your chance of getting a fungal infection. Techniques that can lower stress include meditation, yoga, and tai chi. [6]
  • Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can increase stress. Getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining the effectiveness of your immune system. [5] 
  • Exercise regularly. Aerobic activity can help increase the circulation of T cells that find pathogens and kill them. Exercise can also increase blood flow and make you feel more energetic. Something as simple as a daily walk may improve your immune system. [7]

Fungi’s Favorite Environments

Fungi are primarily associated with humid environments. They prefer dark and moist conditions and can thrive in wet surroundings. In the wild, fungi grow in abundance on the forest floor because it is rich in decaying plants and animals. In a balanced ecosystem, they play a role as decomposers. [8]

lockers at a gym

Because fungi prefer such environments, gym lockers filled with sweat, dead skin cells, and moisture are prime spots for fungi growth. Sports equipment like socks and shoes also allow fungi to multiply quickly. Athlete’s foot is also commonly caused by walking barefoot in communal showers or around the locker room at a gym. [9]

Fungi also target areas like the nails, hands, and groin. Jock itch is characterized by irritation around the genitals, and yeast infections involve itching and swelling around the vagina. To reduce the risk of getting a fungal infection in these highly susceptible areas, follow good hygiene practices such as:

  • Wearing clean clothes every day (especially socks and underwear)
  • Drying off properly with a clean towel after showering, bathing, or swimming
  • Wearing sandals or flip-flops in locker rooms
  • Wiping down shared surfaces such as gym equipment or yoga mats
  • Choosing breathable clothing
  • Not sharing personal items like clothing or towels [4] 

Natural Treatments, OTC Products, and Prescriptions 

Preventive action, like practicing good hygiene and looking after your immune system, can go a long way towards reducing your risk of fungal infections. On the off chance you do get a fungal infection, there are over-the-counter creams and natural home remedies you can try. For example, aloe vera and tea tree essential oil have been shown to produce positive effects on areas affected by a fungal infection. [10]

However, it is always best to notify your doctor if you have a fungal infection to avoid complications. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medications like Lotriderm cream (clotrimazole/betamethasone), Diflucan (fluconazole), and Spectazole (econazole) to treat your symptoms.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.