So, we’ve all heard of yeast and fungal infections and where they can creep up on our bodies. But did you know the less-than-dynamic duo can come together in your armpit? That’s what we call armpit fungus, even though it can be a culmination of different types of bacteria or skin molds.
And while this isn’t something you have to be scanning the web for to figure out if you have it (because trust us, you’d already know if you did), here’s how to get rid of armpit fungus — and five helpful things to keep in mind in the event you find yourself faced with this fungal foe.
Like most fungal infections, armpit fungus is caused by skin fungi. In this case, there are two different things to look out for: skin molds, also known as dermatophytes, which are a common cause for most skin diseases, and yeasts that consume the superficial layers of skin.
Oftentimes, when there are breaks in the skin, those lesions can get infected with the bacteria either because of irritation, sweating or even perfumes from certain deodorants that you can use. You can also contract it from fungal strands or spores that can be secondarily spread from scratching infected areas and then touching unaffected areas on your body.
Like most skin irritations, some common symptoms that come with armpit fungus include itching and burning because of excessive scratching and skin damage, noticeable flakes of skin on clothing or elsewhere and darker tinted discoloration of the armpit skin. And all of these are normally accompanied by a musky or foul odor. In the event that the rash is caused by a dermatophyte, the rash can resemble rings with borders that are red and raised. With yeast-based infections, a smelly fluid discharge can also accompany the flare-ups.
Armpit fungus can be transmitted by direct and indirect contact with other people. Oftentimes, coming into skin contact with an already infected individual and then scratching unaffected parts of your body can embed the bacteria in your skin and cause you to contract the fungus in that area.
The most common way to treat armpit fungus is to use topical antifungal ointments and powders, which thankfully, can be bought over the counter. These topical treatments should be applied several times daily over a few weeks. This works well for the fungal-based infections, but in the event that you have a yeast-based infection, you can also use the same ointment used for vaginal yeast infections.
Steps to prevention
Be sure to treat all infected areas on your body to help prevent cross-contamination and recurrence in other places. And since most fungal infections can be transmitted through direct and indirect transmission, don’t share towels, clothes or any other personal items with other people who are also infected.
Another important thing to keep in mind is to make sure that the infected areas stay clean and that you wash them properly and thoroughly when bathing — you can also remove any hair if there is fungus attached to it, but otherwise, it would be wiser to keep the hair until the infection resolves.
Avoid any deodorants or antiperspirants you used prior to the infection, as they may also have the fungus on them. To help with all these steps, try to wear lighter clothing to promote ventilation and prevention of sweaty buildup or use antifungal drying powder if you’re wearing a heavy sweater. You’ll be ready for those strapless dresses or sleeveless shirts in no time!
A version of this article was originally published in March 2017.