For the uninitiated, jock itch is a common condition that occurs when the groin and upper thighs get hot and sweaty, with little in the way of ventilation. And, with the weather warming up, Adele is far from the only person who will experience the affliction. With the rest of the summer still ahead of us, sweating is inevitable, and with many people wearing tight gym gear, chafing shorts and shapewear, it's a recipe for clammy, itchy skin.
So we asked Dr Grace Hula, GP and medical director of G&M, to guide us through everything there is to know about jock itch, including what it is, how to treat it and how to avoid it in the first place.
What is jock itch?
“Jock itch, also known as tinea cruris, is a common fungal infection that affects the skin in the groin area. It manifests as a red, itchy rash that can be uncomfortable and bothersome,” says Dr Hula. As for the name, it comes from its association with jocks and athletes who regularly exercise in the kinds of sweaty conditions that lead to the condition.
What causes jock itch?
“Jock itch is caused by a type of fungus called dermatophytes. These fungi thrive in warm and moist environments, which the groin area often provides,” says Dr Hula. “Factors like excessive sweating or poor hygiene practices can contribute to its development. Jock itch can also be transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces such as towels or clothing,” she says. It's a common condition, but there are steps we can take to limit its development.
How can jock itch be avoided?
“To avoid jock itch, it is recommended to follow these preventive measures,” says Dr Hula.
- Keep the groin area clean and dry: Regularly wash the area with mild soap and water, then pat it dry thoroughly. Avoid using harsh soaps or irritants that can disrupt the skin's natural balance.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing: Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton that allow air circulation and help keep the area dry. Avoid tight underwear or clothing that can trap moisture.
- Change out of wet clothing promptly: After activities that cause sweating, change into clean, dry clothes as soon as possible.
- Use talcum powder or antifungal powders: Applying these powders to the groin area can help absorb excess moisture and prevent fungal growth.
How can jock itch be treated?
“If jock itch develops, there are several treatment options available,” Dr Hula says.
- Anti-fungal creams or ointments: Over-the-counter topical antifungal medications containing clotrimazole, miconazole, or terbinafine can be applied directly to the affected area. Follow the instructions on the package and continue treatment for the recommended duration, even if symptoms subside. It is advisable that to continue using the creams for two weeks post symptoms subsiding to ensure complete eradication of the fungal infection
- Keep the area clean and dry: Gently wash the affected area with mild soap and water, and pat it dry thoroughly. Avoid using harsh soaps or scrubbing vigorously, as it can further irritate the skin.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing: Opt for loose underwear and clothing that allow air circulation and reduce friction in the affected area.
- Avoid scratching: Itching can worsen the condition and increase the risk of spreading the infection. Try to resist the urge to scratch and keep your nails trimmed short to minimise damage to the skin.
If you've tried all of the above and you're still suffering, speak to your GP again. “If jock itch persists or becomes severe despite self-care measures and over-the-counter treatments, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance,” says Dr Hula.