tea-tree oil

Don’t have antifungal cream? Tea-tree oil has also been shown to treat jock itch and athlete’s foot. (The brand pictured is from the company NOW Foods, but it’s just an example. I don’t advocate or vouch for any brand.)

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Someone asked in an online forum I follow what to do about jock itch in a prolonged disaster setting. Good question because, ignored, this annoying itch can turn into a devastating infection. Okay, not usually. But during a disaster, in sweaty, unsanitary conditions, the rash can get bad enough to break down the skin, allowing bacteria to get in. The result could be a painful, swollen groin.

First, I’d like to set the record straight. This fungus has been stereotyped long enough. Jock itch (tinea cruris) occurs in both men and women. And since it’s the same fungus, different location, I’d like to add that athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is not just for athletes. It can torment the geekiest wimp known to man, or woman.

Now what to do about it.

1. Buy antifungal cream now, and keep it on hand.
Antifungal creams are available over-the-counter. Get some terbinafine (Lamisil), or clotrimazole (Lotrimin). Actually, the clotrimazole is pretty good against external yeast infections also.

Tip: Tea-tree oil is a good alternative.
Tea-tree oil has been shown to treat jock itch and athlete’s foot pretty well too. You can buy it at health-food stores and pharmacies. Apply a thin film four times a day. Make sure you cover the affected area and a half-inch or so beyond.

No matter the type of topical fungal treatment, use it religiously until the rash is gone and then a few days afterwards for good measure. That’s usually two or more weeks.

2. Keep your skin dry.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot and jock itch loves moisture. So whether you’re trying to prevent the itch or treat it, keep your skin dry. Dry every crack and crevice after bathing. The groin, feet, and toes have a tendency to sweat. Use cornstarch or talc to absorb the sweat, and wear loose-fitting, cotton clothes. Even in disasters, change your socks and underwear daily if you can—more often if they get wet.

Jock Itch Vs. Yeast Infections Vs. Athlete’s Foot Vs. Eczema

  • Jock itch occurs on one or both sides of the groin. It causes a solid area of redness with a demarcated border.
  • Skin with a yeast infection is also red but usually has additional small red patches close by, called satellite lesions. Yeast infections are more common on the actual genitalia—vulva or testicular sac.
  • Athlete’s foot causes cracks or oozing between one or more toes. It can also cause a scaly rash on the sole of one foot. Sometimes eczema can cause that same scaly rash. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream helps eczema.

A common trait of all of these rashes is they itch like crazy. If it’s bad, you can add a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for relief.