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How to Kill Fungus

Learn how to kill fungus inside and outside the home.

Antifungal nail polish may be recommended to kill fungus found on fingernails. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Antifungal nail polish may be recommended to kill fungus found on fingernails.

Fungus can cause conditions like athlete's foot and yeast infections. Learn how to kill harmful fungus on the body.

Fungus is a plant-like organism that can live in soil, water, air and in the human body. Types of fungus include mushrooms, yeasts, mold and mildew. Fungus can infect the human body in a number of ways, none of which are pleasant. Nail fungus, athlete's foot and jock itch are just a few of the many fungal infections a person can contract. To treat these conditions the fungus must be killed, but sometimes this is a difficult task.

Fungal infections can result from inhaling fungus from the air or from fungus spores that land on the skin. Some types of fungus are present within the body and don't cause a problem until something - for example, the use of antibiotics - upsets the body's delicate balance.

Fungal infections generally develop over a long period of time. Due to its chemical makeup, a fungus can be difficult to kill. The following are descriptions of a few types of common fungal infections:

Nail Fungus

Nail fungus, or onychomycosis, affects the fingernails or toenails, especially nails in warm and wet conditions like sweaty shoes and public shower floors. Symptoms of nail fungus include thick, brittle, ragged or otherwise misshapen nails. Sometimes the nails are dull or dark in color.

Treating nail fungus requires medical treatment. For mild cases of nail fungus, a physician may prescribe a topical antifungal nail polish, cream or lotion. Sometimes these are used in conjunction with oral antifungal drugs like itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan) or terbinafine (Lamisil). Even with these medications, it can take months to eliminate fungus from the nails.

Athlete's Foot Fungus

Like nail fungus, the fungus that causes athlete's foot thrives in warm, moist environments. Locker rooms or public showers often are linked to the spread of the fungus. Symptoms of athlete's foot include stinging, itchiness, burning, cracked skin or excessively dry skin on the soles of the feet and between the toes.

Prescription or nonprescription topical antifungal powders, sprays, lotions or ointments are used to treat athlete's foot fungus. These may include terbinafine (Lamisil AT), clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF) and miconazole (Micatin). To kill more serious forms of the fungus, oral antifungals like itraconazole (Sporanox) or fluconazole (Diflucan) may be prescribed.

Jock Itch Fungus

The same fungus that causes athlete's foot causes jock itch, or tinea cruris. The uncomfortable symptoms - itching, burning and redness - are similar to those of athlete's foot but appear in different parts of the body. The inner thighs, buttocks and genitals are usually affected.

Topical over-the-counter antifungals that can kill the jock itch fungus include terbinafine (Lamisil AT), naftifine (Naftin), miconazole (Micatin, Monistat-Derm) and clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF). For severe cases of jock itch, a doctor can prescribe stronger topical antifungals like econazole (Spectazole) or oxiconazole (Oxistat), or the oral antifungal itraconazole (Sporanox).

There are several other medical conditions caused by fungus, including vaginal yeast infection, oral thrush and ringworm of the scalp. Treating any fungal infection requires diligence on the part of the doctor and the patient. Antifungal medications should be used as directed, and often must be continued for a long period of time to successfully eliminate the fungus.

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