Jock itch is probably a terrible term but it is the one that’s used to describe a fungal rash that happens at the groin, pretty much where the leg meets the body.

Hi I’m Doctor Joe.

Very, very similar to athlete’s foot which is a fungal infection on the foot, particularly between the toes, jock itch is a fungal infection at the groin. There are some similar predisposing factors and those ones generally are sweating and heat.

So whilst it’s not caused by heat, it is a type of rash that’s more prominent in the hotter months. It’s also more prominent in people who might work in hot environments and people who are working, you know, particularly outdoors and also perhaps in sports people, obviously their body’s heating up and might be doing a lot of running around and sweating in the groin area.

The fungus is generally what’s called a dermatophyte. The rash typically looks as rashes do, a bit red; it’s typically itchy and hence the name.

It’s important to point out that it is not, and I really want to underline not, a STI or sexually transmitted infection, and so it will not cause things like burning with passing urine or any other symptoms like that. The key symptoms are redness and generally an itch, but more where the leg meets the body so in the groin, rather than on or at the genitalia themselves.

The rash doesn’t have an odour associated with it. In fact if you notice an odour that would suggest that it might be something else and you probably should be getting that checked.

Okay, how do you catch it? It is a fungus, it’s a very ubiquitous fungus, so it’s something that is in the atmosphere, in fact there are some theories that it can live quietly on the body just in the normal course of events but can multiply given the right circumstances. So again, heat and sweating creates a warm, moist environment that does make it a little bit easier for the fungus to multiply.

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Treatment is relatively straight forward and similar to athlete’s foot. Pretty much all the remedies are available over the counter and we’re talking about anti-fungal type creams. Generally a cream is going to be the best one in that area. An ointment obviously is an alternative, but generally lotions and sprays not so much used in that area of the body.

You do need to treat it usually for a couple of weeks, sometimes a little bit longer. If it does persist more than say three weeks, again a good idea to see your GP and just make sure that you are on the right track.

Preventative measures? Look, they’re helpful but not always practical. We can’t all spend all our days in air conditioning. Life does go on. You don’t have to give up your sport, necessarily. But after you shower make sure you dry the area quite thoroughly, pat or dab dry to make sure the area is clean and dry. Sometimes wearing boxers, this is for males, boxer shorts in preference to jocks can be helpful because that way you haven’t got anything directly rubbing on the area, it can be useful. Women sometimes like to wear the French knickers in that sort of circumstance, so again, enabling air to circulate a bit more freely under your clothes can be of some assistance. It’s not a cure but if you can avoid direct clothes or underwear rubbing on the already inflamed area, that may make life a little bit easier.

Sooth and anti-itch type creams can be used. They’re necessarily not a cure but may ease the symptoms a little bit. Most people find that when they are applying an anti-fungal cream a couple of times a day that that will, if you like, cover both bases – so it’s treating the condition and also providing some soothing at the same time.

Whilst the condition is more common in males, that’s not specifically because of gender related factors. It’s more because males may be more inclined to work in hot conditions or environments where it’s easier for the fungus to multiply.

There are theories about underwear. Probably cotton is better than synthetic and for women avoidance of pantyhose if you do have the fungal rash is helpful. But the more important thing is just avoiding direct rubbing on it. So that’s where the boxer shorts or the French type underwear can be more beneficial if you do have a fungal rash at the groin.

So, jock itch, a fungal infection. Quite harmless, a bit of a nuisance certainly. Relatively easy to treat, generally with over the counter preparations. As always, if symptoms do persist for more than two or three weeks, worth going along and having a chat with your GP.

More information

Dr_Joe_100x100 For information on fungal infections on the foot, watch Dr. Joe’s video Athlete’s foot.
To learn more about the skin and its functions, visit Human Skin.