Tinea cruris: Jock itch

My son is 16 and very involved in sports. In the last year, he has had recurring jock itch. His glands are swollen in the pelvic area, and I have had him checked by his pediatrician. He prescribed a medication for my son to apply to the affected area. Is there anything else we can do to prevent this in the future, or any other medication that might be more effective?

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Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

Jock itch, in medical circles, goes by the fancy name of tinea cruris. But no matter what it's called, it's annoying, itchy, and occasionally embarrassing for the person who gets it. This rash is caused by fungus growing on the skin. In fact, it is often the same fungus that causes ringworm and athlete's foot.

Fungi like to grow in warm, dark, damp places. Babies tend to get it in the form of diaper rash because the diaper environment pretty much defines the optimal growing conditions for fungus. And as much as your son will hate to admit it, so does the private area of a teenage boy or any athlete for that matter.

This fungus, which is rather prevalent in the environment, is only rarely identified as having been transmitted from skin-to-skin. Therefore, to prevent the infection from occurring, the best thing to do is hinder its growth. And to do this, one must minimize its optimal growing conditions:

  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes for long periods of time.
  • Avoid wearing bathing suits or damp, sweaty clothing for long periods of time.
  • Wear cotton underwear that provides good ventilation.
  • Thoroughly dry off with a towel after showering.

It is important to realize that the irritation from the infection is only made worse by vigorous scrubbing of the area, so no changes need to be made while bathing other than to continue with good hygiene. In addition, since this fungus is often found on the feet (hence athlete's foot), it certainly doesn't hurt to dry off the groin area with the towel before using it to dry the feet.

There are a number of anti-fungal creams that are quite effective, and in unusually resistant cases, an oral systemic medication may be used.

I hope this helps.

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