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Fighting Fungus in Sensitive Places

Fighting Fungus in Sensitive Places
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This is the time of year that fungi thrive. Heat and humidity are the lifeblood for mold and mildew. Just check your shower curtain or the crawl space under your house in August to see signs of fungal growth.

Your body is also susceptible to a variety of fungal infections when heat and humidity crank up. Yeast is a type of fungus especially likely to occur on the skin. Creases and other warm damp areas are most vulnerable.

Male athletes frequently complain about jock itch this time of year. Men are not the only ones who suffer, however. Women can experience problems with fungus in the groin area. They also complain bitterly of bra itch.

Many have shared their difficulties and their solutions on fighting fungus in sensitive places on our website (PeoplesPharmacy.com). Here are some of the favorites:

“I have been using Gold Bond Medicated Body Powder for this problem for years. I use it every morning after showering. Just make sure the area under the breast is dry, then rub a generous amount of powder over the entire region before you put on your bra. It works wonders, you don’t need a prescription and it’s not expensive.”

Gold Bond Medicated Body Powder contains menthol and zinc oxide to protect the skin and ease itching. Zinc and menthol seem to have anti-fungal activity, which may explain the benefit (Molecules, Jan. 7, 2009).

Several people have found that old-fashioned amber Listerine helps keep the fungus and itch under control. Men have been using it (cautiously) to control jock itch. Here is one woman’s report:

“I splashed Listerine on under my breast and the itching was gone in a couple of minutes. Eight hours later, the itchiness had returned, so I repeated the treatment. The itching disappeared again. Neither rubbing alcohol nor salt water worked as well.”

Listerine contains a number of herbal oils with anti-fungal properties, including menthol, thymol and eucalyptol.

Other women have found that Desenex powder helps. This athlete’s foot treatment contains the anti-fungal drug miconazole along with cornstarch.

Keeping the area dry is oft-repeated common sense. One woman remarks,

“Keep it dry and clean and use an anti-fungal product when needed. It’s basically like having athlete’s foot under the breasts so you have to treat it like athlete’s foot.”

Several women warn that the elastic in bras can exacerbate irritation and suggest wearing only cotton bras. Another approach is donning the bra as infrequently as possible, or changing it every day if skipping it is not practical.

Another fascinating approach is milk of magnesia applied to the area:

“Once you get the fungus under control, try MoM [milk of magnesia] under the breast. Blow it dry [use a low heat setting] before getting dressed.”

People have used this ubiquitous laxative on skin for a variety of conditions from dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis to acne or underarm odor.

The best way to discourage yeast is to deprive it of moisture. That may be why many of these home remedies are so successful. Old-fashioned ingredients like zinc, menthol and thymol can also be surprisingly helpful in the never-ending fight against fungi. You can find more stories about fighting fungal itch and remedies to fight fungus and yeast at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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