What Is Jock Itch?
Jock itch, known as tinea cruris, is a common fungal infection affecting the groin area. It’s called "jock itch" because it is frequently observed in athletes and individuals who engage in sports activities. Still, it can occur in anyone, regardless of their level of physical activity.
What Causes Jock Itch?
Jock itch is primarily caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, which thrive in warm, moist environments. These microorganisms aren’t intruders; they’re natural "residents" of the skin.
The problem starts when these fungi get exposed to excess moisture, such as sweat. This, plus the warmth of the groin area, allows the microorganisms to proliferate. When this occurs, they reproduce quickly, causing jock itch.
The fungi that cause jock itch may also cause athlete’s foot, armpit rash, smelly balls and underarms. These microorganisms may also affect the area below the breasts and the inner thighs.
How Can You Tell If You Have Jock Itch?
Common jock itch symptoms include redness and itchiness of the affected area. The skin may feel warm to the touch and even cause a burning sensation in advanced cases. The fungi can cause the skin to have pink, red, or brown spots or patches, flake, peel off, or crack and ooze fluid, creating an unpleasant odor.
What Does Jock Itch Smell Like?
You can tell it's a "jock itch smell" if the symptoms mentioned above come with a musty odor. It resembles the scent of yeast or cheese. In some people, however, the smell may seem more like mold mixed with an acrid or sour odor. Nearly everyone would describe it as “not great.”
Who Is Most At Risk of Getting This Infection?
The fungi that cause jock itch (and its distinctive smell) flourish in warm and moist areas. Individuals with deep skin folds or those who exercise can be particularly susceptible. That's also why experts say losing weight and B.O. often go hand in hand.
Other risk factors for jock itch include:
Obesity & Elevated BMI
Jock itch is common in overweight people who sweat a lot. People with a higher body mass index are at a greater risk of fungal infections. This may be due to their increased skin folds, which create an ideal environment for fungi.
Age, Gender, and Clothing
Age and gender also play a role: teenagers and men are more likely to develop jock itch.
Teenage boys who play sports often wear jockstraps. Jockstraps create a build-up of sweat and heat in the groin, which is the perfect environment for fungal infections.
Super-tight clothing and undergarments can also put women at risk. Such clothing may promote increased sweating and the itching associated with a smell "down there."
Individuals with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) have a heightened risk of developing jock itch. Hyperhidrosis is also quite common, affecting an estimated 7.8 million people in the US alone.
Candida albicans is the top cause of fungal infections in folks with diabetes. Like jock itch, these skin conditions can lead to itchy rashes and redness. However, having diabetes also raises one's risk of developing tinea cruris.
How Can You Treat Jock Itch?
Jock itch is very common, but it's often treatable in the comfort of your own home. According to health experts, over-the-counter antifungal products can control fungal growth. Such treatments include topicals like creams, sprays, and powders.
Before applying an antifungal product, clean the area with soap and warm water. Thorough (but gentle) drying of the site is also crucial to help the skin absorb the product better.
Remember to handwash before and after using an antifungal. Doing so can prevent the spread of fungi to other parts of your body. Moreover, this practice can help keep pathogens from spreading to other people.
Preventing Itchiness and Smells Down There
Keeping the affected areas clean and dry is critical to controlling jock itch symptoms. Proper hygiene can help prevent the infection from worsening and spreading. You can also keep the bad smells at bay by reducing the number of "dermatophytes" in your groin area.
Here are some of the best ways to prevent jock itch.
Don't "Sit" in Sweat-Soaked Undergarments
As mentioned above, many people sweat more than the average person. In this case, the groin and buttocks can sweat profusely, soaking your underwear.
Either way, if you’re planning on partaking in rigorous activities, bring a clean outfit to change into should you sweat through your clothes.
Speaking of clothes, it's best to wear loose clothing to avoid causing skin friction. Tight clothes can irritate the jock itch-affected skin and may even injure it, setting you up for even more infections.
Wipe It Down
It can also help if you use deodorant wipes after you use the bathroom. Using these products before changing into fresh underwear is also wise. They help gently cleanse the affected area while also helping reduce the smell of jock itch.
One thing to note, though: not all wipes are flushable, so be sure to choose only compostable ones! This way, you can prevent plumbing and sewer clogs. Compostable wipes are also better for the environment, as they aren't toxic to the soil.
Use Whole Body Deodorant
If you have jock itch, you can apply aluminum-free deodorant to help control the smell. Mando is the only deodorant that is safe to use on your pits, feet, privates, and everywhere else. Mando comes in various cologne-quality scents like Bourbon Leather and Mt. Fuji.
Keep Exercising (But Keep It Clean)
Everyone is at risk of a fungal infection, as there are at least 300 types of fungi harmful to humans. Those who have poor immune systems are at an even greater risk. A healthy immune system is crucial to preventing and fighting off infections.
Exercising remains one of the most effective ways to promote a healthy immune system. However, if you have jock itch, you must up your hygiene game. This includes cleaning exercise equipment before and after you use it.
Also, remember that the fungi that cause athlete's foot are also the culprits behind jock itch. So, wear sandals (or some foot protection) whenever you hit the gym, especially in the shower room.
Use Fresh Towels
As you recover from tinea cruris, it might help to use a new towel after every shower to prevent the fungi from moving from one surface to another. If you reuse the same towel, the fungi may transfer back to your body.
Speaking of towels, if you have athlete's foot, use a separate towel for your feet. Again, this prevents harmful microorganisms from spreading elsewhere.
If you're at the gym or any public shower (or pool), do your best to avoid setting your towel over any surface. This can help reduce the chance of recurring infections.
When Do You Need To See A Doctor for Jock Itch?
If you follow our outlined steps, you'll likely see an improvement in your jock itch within a week or two. However, you should visit your doctor if the rash, itchiness, or redness worsens. This way, your physician can run tests to ensure it's not a more severe condition.
Do note that some strains of fungi can be resistant to pharmaceutical treatments. As such, it's best to see a doctor if antifungal topicals don’t help. Your physician may need more tests to identify and rule out potential causes.
Say Goodbye to That Jock Itch Smell
Jock itch (and its accompanying odor) is treatable with proper hygiene. In the meantime, you don't have to live with the foul smell; you can reduce it with body wash, deodorant wipes, or whole body deodorant, like Mando. Most importantly, keep those areas clean and dry as much as possible to prevent recurring infections.