Jock itch is a fungal infection that can spread from one person to another and from one area of your body to another. It often spreads through shared equipment, like towels and protective cups.
Jock itch, also called tinea cruris, is an infection caused by fungi on your skin. The fungus that causes jock itch lives naturally on your skin, hair, and nails. When the fungus multiplies too quickly, it can overtake the other bacteria that keep your skin healthy. The resulting infection causes a scaly red rash that can itch and burn. In the groin area, this is called jock itch. This condition is most common in men and can affect women too.
The fungus that causes jock itch can be spread from person to person. Keep reading to find out the ways that jock itch can be spread.
The fungus that causes jock itch can be easily spread between people. Sexual contact and skin-to-skin contact can spread the fungus from the groin area to other body parts and trigger infections elsewhere, too. For example, a person who touches the genitals of someone with jock itch could then develop ringworm, another fungal infection, on their hand.
Even though jock itch is more common in men, women can get it, too. The fungus can travel from any contact with a groin with the infection to cause other types of fungal infection, which can develop nearly anywhere on your body.
Jock itch gets its name from how easily it spreads in places like locker rooms where personal items are shared and moisture is common. Fabrics and plastics can all harbor the tinea fungus and spread the infection. Underwear, jock straps, cups worn during sports, and towels can all transmit jock itch.
To stop the spread of jock itch, personal items should be limited to your personal use. Don’t share protective sports equipment like cups or padding. Certain lifestyle factors and health conditions can make you more likely to develop jock itch.
If you fall into one of these categories, be mindful of how easily jock itch can be transmitted:
- people with autoimmune conditions
- people with fungal infections elsewhere on the body, such as athlete’s foot
- people with diabetes
Having jock itch puts you at risk for developing infections elsewhere from the same fungus. For example, if you have jock itch, your foot may touch your underwear when you’re undressing and cause you to develop athlete’s foot. You can also develop ringworm on your skin from touching your own jock strap and not washing your hands afterwards.
If you still have any symptoms of jock itch present, it’s safe to assume that you’re still contagious. Jock itch symptoms include:
- burning or itching in the groin, upper thighs, or buttocks area
- a red rash that appears over your groin, thighs, or buttocks
- scaly patches or blisters that appear within the rash
Jock itch is contagious for as long as you have infected spores from the fungus living on your skin. These spores can even live on surfaces like bedding and towels for over a year if they aren’t washed.
While it might not be possible to completely determine if jock itch is still contagious, the risk of transmission goes down significantly once you start treating your symptoms. Once you begin treatment, it typically takes two weeks for symptoms to clear up completely.
Since jock itch is contagious, it’s especially important to get treatment. If you have untreated jock itch, it can be transmitted to others.
In many cases, tinea infections can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) topical creams. These creams can be applied for two to four weeks to ease symptoms and kill the overgrowth of tinea fungus. These treatments usually need to be applied twice daily.
If using OTC creams don’t resolve the infection, you may need to see a doctor to get a prescription-strength cream. If you develop a tinea infection on your scalp, see a doctor for a prescription antifungal medication.
To avoid transmitting, spreading, or catching jock itch, follow these tips:
- Always put your socks on before putting on your underwear. This will protect your feet from athlete’s foot while you have jock itch.
- Never share personal items, such as towels, jock straps, or protective padding.
- Pat your groin area dry after showering or using the pool.
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable cotton undergarments.
- Wipe down exercise equipment before and after use, especially in shared areas such as sports practice or at the gym.
- Wear sandals in moist environments like the shower, sauna, and swimming pool areas.
- Avoid sexual contact while you wait for your infection to clear up.