Fungal infection – An overview
Fungal infections are common, and many people suffer from fungal infections at least once in their lifetime. Fungus is commonly found in the environment, and many of us come in contact with it. There can be a presence of fungal spores in the air, and we tend to breathe it.
When we breathe in the fungal spores, it will not affect most of us. However, people with a weak immunity can get infected with fungal spores, which leads to fungal infection.
Fungus grows in humid and warm temperature. These infections can infect any person, and they are not life-threatening.
According to CDC, fungi are called as opportunistic infections. These infections infect a person when their immunity is weak. Some of the common fungal infections are jock itch, athlete’s foot, and genital candidiasis.
Symptoms of fungal infection
The symptoms of fungal infection will depend on the type of organism that has caused the infection. Some of the common symptoms of fungal infection are listed below.
- Discoloured nails
- White patches near the mouth
- A lump under the skin (in most cases they are painless)
If the spores are inhaled by a person, they can cause symptoms like
The common fungal infection is ringworm infection. Ringworm causes athlete’s foot and jock itch infection. The infection leads to a ring-shaped circular infection. So it is called a ringworm infection.
Ringworm can be highly contagious, and they can spread through skin-to-skin contact. The fungus can also spread through surface contact.
If there is a yeast infection in the vagina, there will be foul-smelling discharge from the vagina. A fungal infection in the skin can lead to itching, dryness, and swelling. If a fungal infection occurs in the lungs, it can lead to chest pain, muscle aches, fever, and coughing.
Causes of fungal infection
There are many species of fungus in the environment that can cause infection. We come across these infections many times in our life. Fungus being an opportunistic pathogen, can infect people with weak immunity.
Most fungal species will not infect humans. However, there are some species that can infect humans and can be harmful to humans.
There are three classes of fungal infections that can cause infection.
- Environmental fungi
Dermatophytes dwell in dead tissues like hair, nails and the outer layer of the skin. They usually don’t infect the living tissues.
Candida albicans is a yeast organism that lives in a symbiotic relationship with humans. When the count of the organism increases, it can lead to itching and redness. In rare cases, they may be harmful.
Environmental fungi are those that dwell with us in the same environment. They are commonly seen in the soil and water. Some of the common fungi are Aspergillus and Blastomyces.
Fungal infection can spread through public spaces like showers and locker rooms. When there is a cut or wound in the skin, the fungal infection can easily spread. When coming in contact with an infected animal or a human, fungal infection can easily spread.
Certain antibiotics can create a favourable environment for fungal growth. When breathing, fungal spores, can lead to fungal infections. In such cases, these infections can infect the lungs.
Home remedies for fungal infection
Among the fungal infections, there are only a few that can be harmful to humans. They can be treated at home. However, if the symptoms do not settle, consult your doctor immediately.
Yoghurt and Probiotics
Yoghurt contains good bacteria that can help fight fungal infections. According to NCBI, consuming probiotics and yoghurt can help with fungal infections.
Women who were affected with vaginal fungal colonisation, after consuming yoghurt, the colonisation was significantly reduced.
Additionally, it helped ease the symptoms of the fungal infection. However, the study was conducted on a pilot scale and required more supportive evidence.
Fermented foods and probiotics contain good bacteria, which helps improve immunity. So, yoghurt and probiotics can help with the symptoms of fungal infections.
Wash with Soap and Water
The fungal infection mostly affects people who have poor hygiene. Try to maintain proper self-hygiene. When infected with a fungal infection, try to wash the infected area or the skin with mild soap and water.
Soap will not help to kill the fungal infection. However, it can reduce the spread and the intensity of the infection.
While using soap, be cautious. It can also flare up the fungal infection. So, use a mild soap and do not rub it hard. Try to pat dry with a towel and then apply the ointment.
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains antifungal properties.
- Take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and heat it till warm.
- To the warm apple cider vinegar, add carrier oil like sesame oil and coconut oil.
- With a coconut ball, dip the oil and dab it gently on the skin.
Additionally, they can be beneficial for toenail fungal infections. Add a few drops of apple cider vinegar to warm water. Soak your feet in the warm water for 15 minutes. This can prevent the growth and spread of the fungal infection.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is the oil that is obtained from the leaves of the Australian tea tree. The oil is obtained through the process of distillation. Tea tree oil naturally contains germ-killing properties. So, they can be beneficial when used for fungal infections.
Dilute the tea tree oil with coconut oil. Dab the cotton in the oil and wipe it around the infected area. This will help to reduce the toenail infection and prevent the spread. You can repeat this twice a week.
There is certain research that supports the beneficial effect on an athlete’s foot. However, further research is required to support the hypothesis.
Coconut oil contains excellent antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. They can be effective in treating ringworm infections.
According to NCBI, coconut oil is effective against the drug-resistant Candida species. Topical application can help with wound healing and provides excellent moisturising effects.
Before applying coconut oil to the skin, wash the infected area with soap and water. Dab some warm coconut oil on the infected area. Do not rub it hard, and be gentle in the affected area. Make sure you wash your hands after applying coconut oil to the infected area. There are possibilities for the infection to spread.
Regular usage can help reduce the symptoms of itching. However, continue to apply coconut oil, as they contain excellent moisturising properties.
Turmeric adds an important flavour to the Indian kitchen. It contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains curcumin that helps fight fungal infections.
According to NCBI, turmeric is promoted as a dietary supplement for various health conditions like digestive disorders, respiratory infections, allergies, liver diseases, and arthritis.
Mix water with turmeric powder and apply it to the infected area.
Leave it till it dries, and then wash it with water and soap.
Pat it dry and be gentle near the infected area.
Repeat this until the fungal growth is stopped.
According to NCBI, the alcoholic extracts of turmeric have a minimum inhibitory concentration of 800 μl against Candida and against C. Albicans, which was 1600 μl.
Garlic contains a bioactive element called allicin. This bioactive compound can effectively fight against fungal infections. According to NCBI, garlic extracts provide a good antifungal potential against the species Sporothrix schenckii.
Additionally, the oral intake of garlic extracts had an effect on the release of cytokines, and regular consumption showed an anti-inflammatory effect. Animal studies reported that garlic effectively fights fungal infections.
Crush some garlic cloves with olive oil and apply them to the infected area. Leave it for some time, and wash it with water and soap.
Aloe vera contains natural antiseptic activity. They can effectively kill fungal infections and also inhibit the growth of yeast.
Aloe vera can be applied directly to ringworm infections. It can also help soothe the symptoms like itchiness and inflammation.
Honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which can be an effective home remedy for fungal infections.
According to NCBI, honey contains significant antifungal activity against the Candida species. Apply honey to the infected skin and leave for 20 minutes. Then rinse it with lukewarm water. You can repeat it twice for better results.
The oregano oil contains an antifungal agent called thymol. There are many research studies that support the presence of thymol can be a potent antifungal agent and effectively treats infections caused by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
Dab some oregano oil in a cotton ball and apply it gently to the affected area. It can also be applied to the affected toe and fingernails. The treatment can be effective against such infections and provides significant results.
Neem leaves are known for their antifungal properties. They can be significantly good for your skin. Neem water can be effective against fungal infection.
Boil a few neem leaves in water and leave it for some time. Apply the water to the infected area and leave it for some time. Repeat the process for some time till the infection settles.
Consume foods rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps regulate the immune system, which can provide protection against various infections. Vitamin C contains ascorbic acid, which contains antibacterial properties. This will help to treat the infections effectively.
There is research that supports vitamin C can effectively treat and prevent the growth of fungal infections.
Some of the common vitamin C-rich foods are
- Green and red bell peppers
- Indian gooseberry.
Baking soda can be effective in treating symptoms of fungal infections like redness and itching, especially caused by the Candida species. Mix some baking soda with water and apply it to the infected area.
However, certain research is required to support the effectiveness of baking soda against fungal infections.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract contains antimicrobial and antifungal properties that can prevent the growth of yeast infections. They can also reduce the infection rate.
Topical application of grapefruit seed extract can be beneficial when you have fungal infections.
Lemongrass oil can be effective against fungal infection. Lemongrass oil should not be used directly on the skin. It should be diluted with a carrier oil and then applied to the skin.
Mix lemongrass oil with almond oil and apply it to the infected skin. This will help to moisturise skin and effectively treats infections.
Who are at risk of developing a fungal infection?
People with weakened immunity are most prone to fungal infection. The fungal infection can cause major symptoms and should be treated immediately. People affected with HIV and COVID also have an increased risk of developing fungal infections.
Dirty clothes, especially socks, can be a gateway for the growth of fungus. Hormonal changes and stress can also be added factors for the growth of fungal infection.
Fungal infections can be prevented by consuming good vitamin C foods. These foods help regulate the immune system. Wash the clothes and dry them in sunlight to avoid fungal growth.
Additionally, wear footwear that suits your leg and make sure your foot gets enough air. Moisturise your skin regularly and apply coconut oil to the skin.
When to consult a doctor?
Consult your doctor
- When the symptoms do not settle.
- The symptoms worsen, and skin irritation becomes more.
- People with diabetes.
- Fungal infection accompanied by fever.
Fungal infections can be treated with over-the-counter creams. They can be treated in most cases and sometimes might require medical attention.
Most fungal infections can occur during the winter season so moisturise properly. The skin can become dry during the winter season. Coconut oil can be a good moisturising agent and contains antifungal agents.
If the symptoms do not settle properly, consult your doctor. If left untreated, the infection can worsen and lead to significant infections.
How to remove fungal infection marks from the skin?
Fungal infections can be treated by applying over-the-counter antifungal creams. If the symptoms do not improve, consult your doctor.
Do fungal infections occur only during winter?
Fungal infections are common during the winter season. If the conditions favour the growth of the fungus, the growth can occur in any season.
Are fungal infections contagious?
Fungal infections can spread, and they are contagious. The infection can spread from one person to another or through animal contact.