Daily Health Tips: Fungal Infections In Children

Q: Hello Dr Ketch please tell me, what is the treatment of fungi in children (usually called Jeti jeti)?

A: Fungi are invisible (to the naked eye) micro-organisms that are plant-like. They love and thrive in dark, warm, moist areas and can attack skin in situations of low immunity or when there is an injury to the skin or nail. Examples of fungi are mushrooms (yes…the same one we eat :D), mildew (the one that grows on that towel that didn’t dry well :D) and mold (the type that grows on bread that is left for too long :D). Yep! So, we all know this guy FUNGUS! Ever since my son heard that mushroom was a fungus, he refuses to eat it again. We’ve always had a running battle with it anyways, so this was just convenient! So far, it is, ‘no winner, no vanquished’. We’re still at it though…the battle:D But I digress…

Back to our fungi gist, there are typically three common fungi infections: Ringworms (which most people have heard about), athlete’s foot and jock itch.

Ringworms are small, round, ring shaped rashes/patches on the skin…but are absolutely not worms:D They usually happen when people have minor injuries on skin, scalp or nails and when people sweat a lot. This can be prevented by keeping personal things personal: don’t share towels, clothing, undies, head coverings (caps, hats etc). Keep your skin nice, clean and dry. This process can be helped by taking a bath regularly 😀 and toweling off. Be sure to shampoo after a haircut and dress for the weather. With our hot sun, those fungi have no hiding place! Let them bring it on 😀

You know those sores between toes that happen especially if you are fond of walking around barefoot in wet areas, wear tight shoes and synthetic socks (that don’t allow your feet to breath) and if you don’t clean properly between your toes after a bath? That’s called athlete’s foot. So, to prevent it, avoid the above. Wipe between toes et al after a bath, wear socks made from fabrics that ‘breath’ like cotton, take a break from tight footwear and try not to share your shoes. Buy shoes that suit our weather too. For instance, while a pair of boots may make sense in winter, it may not be such a great idea in these hot climes (Africa) where the weather is hot and our feet need to breath 😀 If you can get away with it, wear sandals.

Have you ever seen anyone closing their eyes and intensely scratching their crotch area? Well, they could have jock itch! This again happens when people sweat excessively…the groin area is not spared. Prevention involves not sharing towels and under-garments, keeping them clean and washed, wearing clean socks and keeping it cool down there by wearing under garments made with cotton, which are not tight fitting 😀 A bath after a hectic exercise or sport session will also not go amiss.

Treatment of these fungal infections will involve the use of anti-fungal creams and where the infection is significant, oral anti-fungal creams are added. Antibiotics may also be indicated where there are bacterial infections…as can occur from the scratching of jock itch.

Fungal infection of the scalp, called Tinea Capitis, is often found in children and is commonly called ringworm too. If you’re a parent and your child has had this, the embarrassment factor alone is significant enough to seek therapy 😀 Parents try all sorts from the conventional to the not-so conventional to take care of this. Anti-fungal creams, lotions and powders applied to the scalp for ages, don’t quite work. Creative solutions like rubbing petrol on the scalp, leaves a screaming child who still has holes and patches in his hair from the fungal infection. Where on earth, did that therapy come from? Petrol??? Seriously???? (like my daughter would say :D)

Tinea Capitis may involve all or some parts of the scalp. The involved areas may look bald and patchy with small, round spots from broken off hair, swollen and inflamed etc. As is typical of fungal infections, they love moist and warm areas and will be encouraged to grow when one has a cut or bruise on the scalp, does not wash his/her hair regularly, sweats a lot and does not wash this off quickly and/or shares personal items of clothing like caps, hats, head scarves, towels etc The infection can also be spread by coming in contact with ringworm on someone else’s body or even contacted from a pet.

Treatment is not achieved on the surface by using anti-fungal creams. This is achieved by taking anti-fungal drugs orally. This will usually be for a significant period of time, between 6 to 8 weeks. Using anti-fungal shampoos may limit the spread of the infection but does not get rid of it. Again, even if signs of quick results are seen, this does not mean therapy should be stopped immediately. The drug should be taken for the full period prescribed by the doctor.

During the course of treatment, pillowcases, combs, towels et al which are probably infected, should be disposed of, where possible. If not, they should be disinfected with bleach and washed in warm water.

Moving forward, personal things should be kept personal and not shared with other people 😀 Personal hygiene is key… children should be taught to take a bath and frequently too, especially after sweating. They should also stay away from stray dogs or those that have the infection (a bald patch on the dog’s fur may be observed)

So, there you have it. In this instance, an ounce of hygiene is certainly worth a pound of cure!

Have a good night, people 😀


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