Fighting Fungus

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Fungal infections in general, and tinea infections in particular, are amongst the most common conditions for which pharmacists are consulted. After aches and pains and coughs and colds, it seems that pharmacists are most often required to make a recommendation for a scaly rash on the feet.

Fortunately, with new antifungal products available, fungal infections can almost always be very effectively treated. However, the success rate depends not only on product selection but, just as importantly, on how the product is used.

Just how likely you are to get a fungal infection depends to a great extent on your occupation. Our troops in East Timor would be especially at risk. In fact, all our Defence Force personnel are high-risk candidates. But you don’t have to be fighting at the front line to get that tell tale itch between the toes. Working in hot, wet and inhospitable environments anywhere can increase the risk of fungal infections.

Professional and amateur sportspeople are also highly likely to suffer with fungal infections. According to sports medicine practitioner Dr. Brian Sands, athletes do not always indulge in the most hygienic of practices. "They can take their training gear off and throw their socks, jocks and shorts into the training bag and leave it in the boot of the car until the next training session," he said.

Fungus infection

Apart from the so-called soft tissue injuries, athlete’s foot was the most commonly treated problem amongst the athletes at the Sydney Olympic Games. Of course, it’s not only elite athletes who have athlete’s foot. In certain occupations tinea is almost "par for the course". Farmers and their families, forestry workers, cooks, bar tenders, cleaners, veterinary surgeons and hospital staff are all at high risk. Wherever they are provided with a warm, moist environment, these fungal organisms really thrive.

Nevertheless, there are some simple precautions you can take which will help prevent fungal infections from taking over your feet and other body parts. Wear thongs or sandals in the communal shower; make sure the feet and body are dry after a bath or shower; resist the temptation to share towels and clothing; avoid harsh or irritating soaps and detergents; clean the base of the shower or bath with bleach after use so you don’t re-infect yourself or others; and change your footwear regularly (especially joggers) and air them in the sun.

For those extra stubborn fungal infections try Lamisil cream or gel and continue to apply the product for two weeks after the infection seems to have disappeared. For the really resistant fingernail or toe nail fungal infections Loceryl paint, applied once a week for up to six months will usually clear the infection.