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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Ringworm, Athlete's Foot, and Jock Itch

June 2018 | Asma Sayeed, MD - Family Medicine Resident, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital

Ringworm, athlete’s foot and jock itch are fungal infections that are more common among individuals with Down syndrome. There are a variety of likely reasons for that including a tendency towards dry skin that can crack and lead to fungal infections, impaired immune system function, and, in some individuals, limited ability to care for their own hygiene. Some individuals are also dependent on their care takers which may delay early recognition and timely treatment of these conditions.

Ringworm infections are skin infections caused by a fungus. These types of fungal infections are also called "tinea." Some people call these fungal infections "ringworm," because they often cause a ring-shaped, red, itchy rash on the skin.

People with athlete's foot (tinea pedis) can have moist, raw skin between their toes, or flaking skin on the bottoms of their feet.

People with jock itch (tinea cruris) often just have a red rash in the groin.

Sometimes, especially in children, the fungus can infect the scalp (tinea capitis). On the scalp, the infection can look like a bald spot or a round, flaky patch of skin.

Common Causes: You can catch fungal infections from anyone who is infected. You can also catch them from an infected dog or cat. Plus, you can pick up the infections from places where the fungus might be such as a shower stall, the locker room floor, or the area near a pool.

If you have a fungal infection on one part of your body, you can also spread it to other parts. For instance, men with a fungal infection on their feet sometimes spread it to their groin.

Treatment: The treatment for a fungal infection depends on which body part is affected. If you have a fungal infection on your scalp, topical treatments are not likely to be effective and, typically, you must take pills that will kill the fungus. Treatment for scalp infections usually lasts 1 to 3 months.

If you have a fungal infection on your feet, groin, or another body part, topical treatment is usually effective and, typically, you will not need pills. Instead, you can use a special gel, cream, lotion, or powder that kills fungus. Treatment with these products lasts 2 to 4 weeks.

If you have a fungal infection on multiple sites, you must treat them at the same time. If you do not, the infection can be spread back and forth between sites.

Preventive measures to avoid getting infected again:

If someone in your home has had a fungal infection on their scalp:

  • Get rid of any combs, brushes, barrettes, or other hair products that could have the fungus on them.

  • Make sure a doctor or nurse checks everyone in the house for a fungal infection.

  • If the fungal infection might have come from a pet, have the pet checked by a vet.

Here are some other general tips on how to prevent fungal infections:

  • Do not share unwashed clothes, sports gear, or towels with other people.

  • Always wear slippers or sandals when at the gym, pool, or other public areas. That includes public showers.

  • Wash with soap and shampoo after sports or exercise.

  • Change your socks and underwear at least once a day.

  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Always dry yourself well after swimming or showering.


Patient education: Ringworm (including athlete's foot and jock itch) (Beyond the Basics)

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.