What do you think of when you hear the word fungus? Do you think of mushrooms? A mushroom is one type of fungus, but fungus also refers to a type of germ that lives on all of us.
This germ is harmless most of the time, but sometimes it can cause a problem called a fungal infection (say: FUN-gul in-FEK-shun). It sounds gross, but don't worry or feel embarrassed. A lot of people get fungal infections, but they're usually easy to treat because a fungus rarely spreads below the skin.
If you get one of these infections, before you know it, you'll be saying bye-bye to fungi (say: FUN-guy).
Fungi, the word for more than one fungus, can be found on different parts of the body. Here are some common types of fungal infections:
Lots of kids get fungal infections. Kids love to share and hang out together. Some of these infections are contagious (say: kon-TAY-jus), which means they easily spread from person to person. Close contact or sharing a comb or hairbrush with someone who has tinea can spread the fungus from one person to another. Because fungi need a warm, dark, and humid place to grow, public showers, pools, locker rooms, and even the warmth of shoes and socks can give fungi the perfect opportunity to strike.
Taking antibiotics can cause some kids to get a yeast infection. Antibiotics get rid of germs that make us sick, but they can also kill many of the harmless bacteria in our body. These harmless bacteria normally fight with the yeast for a place to live, but when antibiotics kill them, the yeast is free to grow.
Sometimes, a fungus may infect kids if they have an immune system disorder (this means their bodies can't fight certain types of infections). This is rare, but it does happen.
Many skin problems look like a fungal infection so the best way to know for sure is to ask your doctor. Here are some signs you and a parent can look for:
Getting rid of a fungal infection is not too hard. Your doctor may decide to scrape a small amount of the irritated skin or clip off a piece of hair or nail and look at it under a microscope or do a culture.
Once your doctor knows what kind of infection you have, special antifungal creams and shampoos can help to get rid of it. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe a medicine to take by mouth. Make sure you take the medicine for as long as the doctor tells you.
Maybe fungal infections can't be avoided altogether, but you can help yourself ward them off.
Walk away from athlete's foot by:
You can ditch jock itch by:
Prevent beastly yeast infections by:
Say bye-bye to pityriasis by:
There may always be a "fungus among us," but we can make it a lot tougher for them to invade and grow!
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: July 2014
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