Do You Know a Fun-guy?

Submitted by Dr. Becky Wise:

You’ve probably heard the old joke “What do you call a germ that wants to party? A Fun-guy.” But it’s never fun to have fungi on your skin like athlete’s foot, ringworm, thrush, or a yeast infection.

Foot infections are not fun.
Foot infections are not fun.

You may have suffered with one or more of these, but did you know you can treat them effectively, in most cases, with over-the-counter (OTC) medications? You don’t have to go to the doctor until after you’ve tried OTC antifungal treatments and not gotten better.

All these conditions are fungal infections of the skin (Tinea Infections) or mucus membranes (Candida or “yeast” Infections), and they generally occur when your immunity is lowered for some reason (like using corticosteroids for asthma or after a long use of antibiotics) where your body’s normal defenses are weakened. They are spread by touch so are quite communicable person-to-person, and sometimes you can be a “carrier” of an infection giving it to someone else when you don’t even have symptoms yourself.

Athlete’s foot is the most common of these conditions and appears between the toes as peeling, cracking, or scaling of the skin. This is accompanied by itching, burning, redness, and even blisters. To treat it choose one of the treatments in the pharmacy aisle – Lamisil AF (terbinafine), Naftin (naftifine), Lotrimin (clotrimazole) or Zeasorb-AF (miconazole). These come in cream, lotion, gel, or powder and you should try one product every day, as directed on the package, for a week or two to know if it is working. If it’s not, try another for a week or two, but after you’ve tried three different products and are still having symptoms, you should call your doctor to take a look.

There are other skin infections that have similar symptoms but on other parts of the body (jock itch, ringworm, scalp ringworm) and can be treated with the same products (even though they say they are for athlete’s foot). The scalp conditions can also be treated with Selsun Blue shampoo. If you have one of these conditions and it does not resolve after about a month of OTC treatment, again, call your doctor. There are prescription medications that can help, such as ketoconazole shampoo.

Yeast infections are common in some women who use particular medications like antibiotics or diabetes drugs. To avoid this type of infection, first don’t use any products that could irritate the area such as colored, scented or “fluffy” toilet tissue. If you get a yeast infection, the first treatment recommendation is over-the-counter Monistat (miconazole) 1-day treatment or 3-day treatment, or topical creams like Gyne-lotrimin (clotrimazole) or Vagistat (tioconazole). If these don’t work, the doctor can prescribe Diflucan. But, before you use any of these products, be sure to ask the pharmacist to check your other medications for any interactions that might occur.

Finally, if you have thick creamy-white patches on your tongue, inner cheeks, or back of your throat, you may have developed thrush. This is common if you are using steroids (like inhaled products for asthma) or antibiotics for a long time. It can also occur with hormone changes like when a young lady starts a birth control pill. So, if you are using these products, ask your physician or pharmacist for the best way to avoid thrush. However, if you get it, it can only be treated with prescription medications (Nystatin or Diflucan), so you’ll have to be seen by your doctor.
Good hygiene is key for each of these conditions. They tend to grow where there is moisture for long periods at a time, so following are some good practices for prevention:

Athlete’s foot – change your socks often, wear different shoes each day and let them completely dry out between, use drying powders (like GoldBond) – unless you are diabetic, and even try soaking your feet in bleach-water or vinegar water a few times a week.

Elsewhere on your skin – dry thoroughly after showering especially in areas where your skin rests on skin (groin, breasts, neck-folds), use powder – unless you are diabetic, wash hands often – after restrooms, before eating – and scrub under your nails.

Yeast infections – do NOT douche (you are actually washing away your body’s normal defenses), treat male partners when you are treating yourself (they can carry it back to you), do not wear tight clothing like restrictive jeans or thong-panties, and wear cotton panties to help draw moisture away.

Remember that everyone’s body is different so age, gender, ethnicity, medication use, and diagnoses all factor into whether a product is right for you. So, as always, talk to your physician or pharmacist before you use any over-the-counter products to be sure they are safe for you.

For more information, check out these links:

This article was written by Cassandra Camp and Bruce Tran,
LECOM School of Pharmacy Class of 2014 PharmD Candidates
Students of Dr. Rebecca Wise

Be Well, Be Wise
Dr. Becky


Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an Ambulatory Care Clinical Pharmacist and Educator in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it:

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