Healthy Living

Is Jock Itch Contagious?

How fungal agents transmit jock itch among people, animals and objects

Is Jock Itch Contagious? How Long Can the Jock Itch Infection Last?

Key Takeaways

  • All it requires to transmit the spores is a warm and moist environment where it can feast on the keratin shed by skin, hair, and nails.
  • Sexual activity with an infected individual nearly always results in the transmission of spores that cause infection. 

If you experience itching, redness of the skin, and a deep sense of irritation in your genital area, chances are you have jock itch. This is, broadly speaking, an infection you pick up from infected clothing or public places where species of microbes called yeast and fungi lurk unseen.

What Is Jock Itch?

Also known as Tinea cruris, jock itch is among the most commonly diagnosed skin infections, caused by a fungi known as tinea, which can also cause other skin infections. Jock itch occurs because of mold-like fungi known as dermatophytes. These fungi can only be seen under a microscope and are usually found living naturally in the skin, hair, and nails.

Normally, these fungi are harmless; however, certain environmental conditions cause them to multiply and thrive, resulting in certain skin infections. Thus, jock itch is most commonly found in warm, moist areas, like the groin region, inner thighs, and buttocks.

Commonly, jock itch is seen in men and young boys. The infection primarily triggers a rash that is extremely itchy and can burn at times. There could also be redness and flaking on the affected areas of the skin. Not exercising personal hygiene habits, including washing hands, armpits, and the groin, regularly puts one at risk of acquiring jock itch.

Jock itch is not a very serious condition, but it can cause a great amount of discomfort with irritating symptoms. Treating the condition quickly often helps prevent the condition from worsening and the infection from spreading. Treatments include application of topical antifungal creams and powders and by keeping the area clean and dry.

8 Facts About Jock Itch You Should Know

  1. Jock itch is normally seen as an infection caused by fungi that affects the groin and inner thigh area. The main sign of this infection is an itchy rash that has symptoms very much like Athlete’s Foot.
  2. Jock itch is normally an infection that affects men, but it can also occur in women.
  3. Moisture and humidity favor the growth of the fungi that causes jock itch. Hence, the infection is largely seen in the crotch and groin areas of the body.
  4. The infection is highly contagious and can even spread from one part of the body to another.
  5. Dermatologists help diagnose and treat this infection. So, if you suspect you have a jock itch infection, it is best to visit a dermatologist at the earliest.
  6. Jock itch can be easily treated with the help of topical creams and powders, as suggested by the attending physician.
  7. The treatment of jock itch may sometimes cause discoloration or pigmentation in the affected area. This is normal in the course of treatment and is not really a cause for worry.
  8. Jock itch may be extremely uncomfortable, but it is not a serious disease. It is common and easily treatable.

It is a contagious infection, meaning that it can spread from a surface to a human, from human to human, or from an animal to a human pretty quickly. All it requires to transmit the spores is a warm, moist environment where it can feast on the keratin shed by the skin, hair, and nails.

Sex and Contact

The groin is a zone that essentially remains moist. The dampness factor is increased through excessive sweating, especially when there is no outlet for evaporation. Multiple layers of skin-tight clothing (tight inner wear and body-hugging pants) preserve warmth, keeping the groin dank and musty – offering the perfect place for yeast and fungus to grow.

Sexual activity with an infected individual nearly always results in the transmission of spores that cause infection. You can reduce chances of infection by properly washing the genital area both before and after sex.

Transmission Through Scratching and Itching

In Tinea cruris (jock itch), tiny spores of yeast and fungus cause the infection. The microbes usually belong to one of three groups in the Dermatophyte family. As the fungal growth spreads over the skin’s surface, it creates rashes that solidify and crack, causing oozing sores. Itching and scratching the rashes transmits the spores to the fingertips, which then lodge securely beneath the fingernails, looking for warm, moist environments where they can proliferate.

Transmission Through Athlete’s Foot

Unbeknownst to many people, tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot, and tinea cruris (jock itch) share the same fungal origins. What starts in the feet easily finds its way to the groin, mainly through hand contact (post-itching), and wearing of undergarments after they brush against the infected feet. This is the main reason why dermatologists probe into the condition of the feet in patients with jock itch.

Sharing of Clothing and Other Items

Locker rooms normally sport a warm and moist environment that encourages fungus and mold growth. The sharing of lockers, towels, and crotch cups (worn to protect the genitals) can transmit the infection. The best precaution in this case is to wash undergarments separately in warm water with soaps that are mildly antiseptic and antifungal.

Transmission Through Contaminated Objects

Throughout the course of a day, people may handle bicycle seats, exercise equipment, and furniture that hold residual spores emitted by oozing sores from an infected person. These spores latch onto our hands and are easily transferred to the groin. This is why one should maintain proper hygiene by washing hands thoroughly before and after using toilets and washrooms in the home and outdoors.

Animal-to-Human Contact

People need to be better prepared to handle the infections animals carry. In farms, the animals most likely to transmit infections like ringworm are goats, pigs, horses, and cows. If you have animals around you a significant portion of the time, ensure that the surroundings are disinfected from time to time and pets are regularly washed, shampooed, and groomed to minimize cross-contamination.

Are You at Risk of Jock Itch Infection?

The fungi that cause jock itch normally thrive and flourish well in moist, damp environments. The following are some factors that increase one’s risk of catching the infection:

  • Men are at a higher risk of acquiring jock itch than women
  • Younger adults and teenagers are more prone to the infection than older adults
  • Wearing tight undergarments can increase the moisture around the crouch area, which can trigger the infection in a person
  • People who are overweight are more likely to catch jock itch due to the folds in the body
  • People who sweat a lot can catch the infection faster than others
  • People with a weak immune system are more susceptible to infections like jock itch
  • Having diabetes increases one’s chance of acquiring jock itch

How Long Can the Jock Itch Infection Last?

Although jock itch is a very common skin infection in men, a number of people find it embarrassing to consult a doctor to seek treatment for it. The biggest problem with skin infections is that people do not give much attention to it unless the discomfort becomes intolerable. They often delay treatment, hoping the infection will go away on its own. By the time these people decide to get treatment, the infection has already become severe. At that point, the common question that creeps up in the mind is, “How long is the infection likely to last?”

If left untreated, jock itch could take a long time to clear up and may have long-term implications on the skin, including pigmentation and discoloration. The condition could also become severe, further delaying the recovery process. Symptoms of severe a jock itch infection include:

  • Blisters that ooze pus or blood
  • A severe burning sensation around the groin region, inner thighs, and anal region
  • Scarring or permanent skin discoloration
  • Severe itching and discomfort

Avoiding treatment may cause the infection to take a long time to go away, guaranteeing a recurrence. Over a period of time, the infection may become severe and chronic as well. Without treatment, the fungi causing the infection will continue to live on the affected surface and reappear as soon as the environment is favorable for regrowth of the infection.

To make sure your jock itch infection has left you for good, do the following:

  • Perform treatment instructions to a tee; make sure the medication is applied on time without delay.
  • While on the surface the infection may clear up, traces may still remain. In such cases, follow-up treatment must be done to completely remove the fungi from the affected area.
  • Home remedies are certainly effective in treating jock itch, but it is important to have conventional methods, like medicated creams, to completely eradicate the fungi from the affected area.

Last Words

Tinea cruris is the localized groin-oriented version of the same fungal attack that appears on the scalp, feet, or body. The best protection is prevention, but once infection has set in, topical anti-fungal creams, pills, and antibiotics are essential to quickly clear symptoms and stop the condition from spreading.