Bimla Rani, 50, had a tiny black spot under the nail of her big toe on left foot. She didn’t bother. It had been there since 4-5 years; she got it after she hit her toe against a big rock in the park while taking a morning walk. She assumed it to be a blood clot that would go with time. But the clot didn’t go, instead it increased in size and the area sometimes turned white. Bimla still wasn’t worried as it was neither paining, nor itching. The ugly look she hid under the dark pink nail polish. But then last month, she noticed that the entire skin under her toe nail had blackened. Though it still wasn’t hurting, it resulted in a worried Bimla approach a doctor. And it turned out to be a fungal infection. “Yuck, I have been living with a fungi since so many years,” she says.
“Fungal infections are like that. Sometimes they do cause itching and turn the skin red but at times fungi may be just living harmlessely,” says Dr Aditya Jayaraman, general physician practicing in Mayur Vihar, Delhi. “And this was a very slow-growing fungi that takes years to spread,” he adds. “It may seem harmless and of no consequence but it is a fungi resting on your body and must be removed,” he says.
“Mild fungal infections can easily be treated by topical medications. But some stubborn infections require oral prescription drugs,” he informs.
There are many reasons why a person gets fungal infection, but lack of cleanliness is the topmost cause of this. Add to this, a weakened immune system, diabetes, poor hygiene, poor blood circulation, a skin injury and coming in contact with someone who is infected.
Anybody can get a fungal infection, and this can occur in any area of your body. Thanks to today’s active lifestyle, they are fairly common too. The current weather conditions are quite ideal for the growth and spread of fungi and hence fungal infections are quite common these days. Although these are rarely serious, these can be quite irritating and hamper your day to day life.
If you spend a lot of time at the gym, you must take steps to protect yourself against fungal skin infections, more so, if you are living in hot and humid climatic conditions.
Itchy burning cracked and peeling feet, raised itchy rash around the groin, or any other part of your body or the brittle discoloured thick nails, all are different kinds of fungal infections.
Keeping your body clean and dry is the best way to prevent any fungal infection. If you have got wet in the rain, change your clothes as soon as you reach home. Sweaty gear provides a perfect home for not only fungi, but other germs as well to grow and cause harm.
Do not wear very tight inner clothes. Very tight undergarments affect the skin badly and upon sweating might lead to fungal infection. Do not share towels, combs, or other personal items with anyone, not even the other members of your house. While in gym, wear shower shoes and wash your feet daily and dry them well.
There also are some simple herbal remedies that can destroy the fungi causing the infection as well as reduce the intensity of the symptoms. But these have to be done at least twice daily and three months at least. These are:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in one cup of warm water and drink it twice daily. One can also externally apply it on the infected area.
Apple cider vinegar has anti-microbial properties and helps kill the fungus causing the infection. Plus, since it is slightly acidic in nature it helps prevent the infection from spreading and promotes speedy recovery.
2. Plain Yogurt
Soak cotton in plain yogurt and apply it on the infected area. Leave it on for 30 minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water and pat dry. Follow this remedy two times a day until the infection clears.
Consuming two-three cups of plain yogurt daily helps in speedy recovery.
The probiotics present in plain yogurt keep the growth of fungi in check by producing lactic acid.
Crush two garlic cloves and add a few drops of olive oil to make a paste. Apply the paste on the infected area and leave it on for 30 minutes. Then wash the area with lukewarm water and pat dry the skin thoroughly. Follow this treatment twice daily until you get rid of the infection.
Also, develop a habit of eating gloves.
Garlic is a useful antifungal agent and hence very effective in all kinds of fungal infections. It also has antibacterial and antibiotic properties that play a key role in the recovery process.
4. Coconut Oil
Gently rub extra virgin coconut oil on the affected area.
Coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids which are natural fungicides and helps kill fungi.
Soak a few tea bags in warm water for 10 minutes. Then put those in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Now apply the cold tea bags on the affected area.
Tannins present in tea help kill fungi. Also, tea has antibiotic and astringent properties that help get rid of symptoms like burning sensation, swelling and skin irritation.
(The writer is a Delhi-based journalist. She has previously worked for Ministry of I & B (Govt of India), Hindustan Times and Special Audience Publications)