Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Fungus Among Us!

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Just a reminder that as teens get older, and some get more modest, you may see less of their bodies, therefore they need to know how to recognize and treat assorted fungus they may pick up at school, the gym, or the pool. Specifically, athletes foot and ringworm, which for some reason I have heard more about lately.

Ringworm is actually NOT a worm, but a term used to describe a fungal infection of the skin. It typically looks like a pink raised area in the shape of an “O” or “C” with a scaly or flaky edge – looking very much like a worm that may be under the skin. But it’s not. It’s just a fungus called “tinea” that normally lives on your skin, and is not a problem unless it multiplies rapidly.

Athletes foot is usually diagnosed because of cracked, peeling and flaking skin between the toes. The skin can be red and itchy, too. You are more at risk if you wear closed shoes, sweat a lot, or have a cut. You can prevent it by wearing flip flops in public showers, as well as keeping your feet clean and dry.

Warm, moist conditions are what make the fungus grow, or breaks in the skin. You can also get the fungus from someone else – from dirty clothes, infected combs, and skin-to-skin contact - gym class, pools or gym shower floors are common places to pick it up. Cats and dogs can also carry the fungus.

You can try to prevent getting this infection by making sure you don’t touch someone who has tinea, until they have been treated, making sure that you change out of sweaty, damp exercise clothes to dry clothes as soon as possible, and wear flip-flops at the pool or the gym shower.

The infection is easily treated with an antifungal cream - the kind they treat athlete's foot with - which you can get at any pharmacy without a prescription. Using the cream 1-2 weeks until there is no sign of the problem usually gets rid of the infection.

Photo credit: THRILLHO
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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