Jock Itch and Athlete's Foot During a Disaster: What to Do

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Rash + Sweat – Showering = Disaster! What to do NOW

tea-tree oil

Don’t have antifungal cream? Tea-tree oil has also been shown to treat jock itch and athlete’s foot. (The brand pictured is from the company NOW Foods, but it’s just an example. I don’t advocate or vouch for any brand.)

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Someone asked in an online forum I follow what to do about jock itch in a prolonged disaster setting. Good question because, ignored, this annoying itch can turn into a devastating infection. Okay, not usually. But during a disaster, in sweaty, unsanitary conditions, the rash can get bad enough to break down the skin, allowing bacteria to get in. The result could be a painful, swollen groin.

First, I’d like to set the record straight. This fungus has been stereotyped long enough. Jock itch (tinea cruris) occurs in both men and women. And since it’s the same fungus, different location, I’d like to add that athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is not just for athletes. It can torment the geekiest wimp known to man, or woman.

Now what to do about it.

1. Buy antifungal cream now, and keep it on hand.
Antifungal creams are available over-the-counter. Get some terbinafine (Lamisil), or clotrimazole (Lotrimin). Actually, the clotrimazole is pretty good against external yeast infections also.

Tip: Tea-tree oil is a good alternative.
Tea-tree oil has been shown to treat jock itch and athlete’s foot pretty well too. You can buy it at health-food stores and pharmacies. Apply a thin film four times a day. Make sure you cover the affected area and a half-inch or so beyond.

No matter the type of topical fungal treatment, use it religiously until the rash is gone and then a few days afterwards for good measure. That’s usually two or more weeks.

2. Keep your skin dry.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot and jock itch loves moisture. So whether you’re trying to prevent the itch or treat it, keep your skin dry. Dry every crack and crevice after bathing. The groin, feet, and toes have a tendency to sweat. Use cornstarch or talc to absorb the sweat, and wear loose-fitting, cotton clothes. Even in disasters, change your socks and underwear daily if you can—more often if they get wet.


Jock Itch Vs. Yeast Infections Vs. Athlete’s Foot Vs. Eczema

  • Jock itch occurs on one or both sides of the groin. It causes a solid area of redness with a demarcated border.
  • Skin with a yeast infection is also red but usually has additional small red patches close by, called satellite lesions. Yeast infections are more common on the actual genitalia—vulva or testicular sac.
  • Athlete’s foot causes cracks or oozing between one or more toes. It can also cause a scaly rash on the sole of one foot. Sometimes eczema can cause that same scaly rash. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream helps eczema.

A common trait of all of these rashes is they itch like crazy. If it’s bad, you can add a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for relief.

  • Jafet Hernandez

    One of the things I found works great for athletes foot or ringworm is Gentian Violet. I use it regularly for minor wounds on my animals, and I know its sold at riteaid or walmart as a thrush remedy. Its a pretty good antifungal/antiseptic.

    • Jafet Hernandez

      forgot to mention it will dye your skin violet.

      • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

        Thanks, Jafet. It certainly works for yeast infections.

  • http://www.defensesoap.com/grapplegnostic/ Amanda@GrapplingBlog

    I agree it itch like crazy… To cure nail fungus and athletes foot soak your hands and foot in white vinegar which destroys the growth of fungus in the skin. For more relief use anti fungal product like Defense Soap.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MCHOBEZR2YBG5CNQNPTM3YBTIE James

    Tea tree ,btw is also exellent for killing off toe nail fungal infections.Some antibiotics seem to just bounce off nail fungual infections,tea tree just is absorbed in th nail and kills it off in a matter of weeks or months.

  • xzy

    Opening a probiotic capsule and applying it onto the rash is really helpful in reducing the itch. Still needs other treatment but this is good for the itchy part. I find Tinactin (tolnaftate) more helpful than Lotrimin or other OTC meds for knocking out the actual infection, but YMMV.

    I have a NP friend who swears by grapefruit seed extract (diluted) for thrush and skin yeast. Vinegar or original Listerine works well for some, as do zinc-based products (Gold Bond powder) for others. Oil of Oregano (diluted), a tincture of Oregon Grape Root, or a very good Tea Tree essential oil are often effective too.

    You need to change your underclothes, your towel, your sleeping clothes, and anything the infection comes in contact with, on a *daily* basis. Wash in hot soapy water, and add some bleach if infection is persistent. Use a blow-dryer or fan on “cool” on the area if you can.

    Interestingly enough, acupuncture is helpful in dealing with chronic cases. It’s also important to address any underlying systemic candida internally.

    I hear that many docs have pharmacists mix up a paste of zinc oxide (Desitin, to protect skin), Lotrimin or Tinactin cream (anti-yeast), hydrocortisone (for the itch), and bacitracin (in case of secondary bacterial infection) for really bad cases.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks for sharing.

  • sillrabbit

    Talc – Yes
    Corn starch – NO
    Good grief, didn’t you take microbiology 101?

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Hmmm. Good point. I presume you’re implying, since cornstarch is a carbohydrate, the fungus may feed on it. But I’ve never read any evidence that that is the case in real life. All I read is cornstarch helps dry, so I’m guessing the fungus thrives on moisture much more than it feeds on cornstarch. But, to each his own. Remember though, talc is harmful to the lungs, if inhale. It’s recommended not to use it on babies.

  • Jackie

    Re: jock itch (jungle rot)…..we were stationed in Bermuda for 3 years and almost everybody had problems…the women, under their breasts as well as the groin area and armpits. The dermatologist their has no solution and while I was on leave back in the US, my dermatologist wrote me a Rx for Lotrasone (nor sure of spelling) & it worked like a miracle. When I turned in the Rx at the base clinic, they didn’t have it but they figured out it was a mixture of Lotrimin and cortisone and they mixed it up for me. Now I can mix it from OTC when I run out.

    • http://www.thesurvivaldoctor.com James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Thanks, Jackie.

  • Melody

    Castor oil, coconut oil, reduce sugar in diet, follow a candida pacifying diet, consume many probiotics, avoid polyester socks and undies, use only pure cotton, throw away jock itch affected garments and shoes. After applying the castor throw on clean sox over so it absorbs, all neem products internal and external do wonders!!!!:)

    • http://www.TheSurvivalDoctor.com James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Thanks for all the great tips, Melody.

  • Sarah E. Bradfield, L.M.T.

    Dr. Hubbard, my mother is a huge fan of the Survival Doctor and Homestead Survival, and I’m a growing fan. I feel that it is important to point out that the picture above shows tea tree essential oil, not simply tea tree oil. There is a huge difference between the two similar products, the one most relevant is that tea tree essential oil is anti-fungal (and anti-bacterial, -viral, -microbial) while the cheaper tea tree oil is not. Essential oils are wonderful, nature-made chemicals with minimal to zero side affects, have a long shelf life if kept in a cool, dark place, and are very potent. I personally use them for myself and my family in just about any non-emergency situation.

    • http://www.TheSurvivalDoctor.com James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Sarah, good point. Thanks.

  • Teresa

    You say to use cornstarch or talc to keep it dry. I have a question about that. Yeast loves starch. Isn’t talc a better choice than starch based powders because the yeast can’t eat it? I know when I’m dealing with a diaper rash (which is a yeast infection), starch based powders do little good and often make it worse. Thank you for your posts.

    • sharri_stowers

      no corn starch for the yeasty symptons but corn starch for the jock itch and athletes foot does wonders for moisture prevention but does not cure anything …..it is a really great subtle thing that a man who sweats as he works can keep in his lunchbox for application as needed and noone knows he has a problem and his misery is temporarily halted

  • http://www.eczema-gone.com Chloe Reeves

    People suffering from skin infections like jock itch would want to find the right remedy for their situation. This is why it is important to know the natural cure for it.