Fungus Amongus

Ok, so here’s the disclaimer right off the bat…This post is going to be about jock itch, because, well, I blog about my experiences in triathlon and sports related to triathlon, and this was my latest sports experience. If you don’t want to read about jock itch, you can wait for my next blog which will certainly be about anything else!

Hi, my name is Cindy, and I have jock itch. Grrrr. Quite decidedly the most uncomfortable, embarrassing, frustrating, and painful experience I have had. EVER. I debated at first whether I was going to blog about this, and then after realizing that I had done some simple things that unintentionally set myself up for this condition, decided to share so that perhaps someone else would have the benefit of NEVER getting it.

I promise, I’m going to spare you a lot of the details, but a day and a half after I finished my 2011 Portland Marathon, a fury broke loose in my groin…everywhere in my groin. Unfortunately, I was at the beach on vacation, which was significantly hampered by this. I got some over-the-counter remedies and began treating it, but was still having problems by the end of the week when I returned home. I saw my doctor, who confirmed my diagnosis, and prescribed the same over-the-counter medications I was using, noting that this condition takes 3-4 weeks to clear up. 3-4 weeks?!?  Yes, boys and girls, 3-4 weeks.

What is Jock Itch?

Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a fungal infection, the same as in Athlete’s foot except for location, caused by common fungi that live on our skin: Trichophyton rubrum, Candida albicans, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton floccosum. These fungi proliferate in dark, warm, moist environments and cause jock itch commonly when there is moisture, warmth, and skin friction in the groin folds; and tight, occlusive clothing and undergarments that trap in sweat.

What Did I Do to Cause This?

There are a couple things that I did that I am certain led to this condition.

Improper Washing of Sportswear

I am big about personal hygiene, believe me. I probably overwash my clothes. I bathe everyday, sometimes several times due to exercise and after working in the yard, etc. I am careful with laundering my sportswear, particularly my spandex running shorts and pants and my swimming suits. I have always heard that you need to wash your spandex clothing in mild detergent and hang them to dry so the spandex fibers would not be damaged to ensure the fabric stays elastic. So I have always done this. The week before my marathon, I noticed that one pair of running shorts really smelled bad after laundering them. In fact, I spent one morning looking for an obviously dead mouse in my laundry room due to the smell in there and discovered the smell was coming my running shorts! I decided not to wear them until I could figure out how to better clean them, so wore my one-piece triathlon suit instead. I spent upwards of 6-7 hours in my tri suit, which wasn’t properly cleaned (I didn’t realize at the time).

Turns out, all of my spandex running clothing was probably teeming with fungus and bacteria from my laundering technique. I’d worn that tri suit in various lakes, certainly full of fungi, and for hours at a time in training and race events. I am now laundering my athletic clothing in a bleach solution and drying them on high heat. Guess what, that funky smell is gone now. I figure I can buy new clothing if the spandex wears out more quickly. The bleach and high heat kill the fungi that cause jock itch.

Poor Placement of a Heating Pad

After my marathon, my front hip flexors (the muscles that you use to bring your thigh upward toward your core) were sore. I used a foam rollers on all of my leg muscles and tibial band, stretched, and massaged, but the flexors were still sore. So the first night, I decided it might be a good idea to apply heat to these areas. I grabbed my heating pad, which is huge and covered both areas and kinda tucked into my groin. Little did I know I just created an environment perfect for fungal incubation! I slept all night with that heating pad on…

So, friends, my advice…CLEAN YOUR ATHLETIC CLOTHING PROPERLY! and don’t use heat on your groin… Even though I bathed immediately after I returned home from the marathon, I had so much exposure to fungal growth, along with additional heat and sweat during and after the race, that fungal growth had probably already begun. I noted a little “rub” down there when I cleaned up after the race, despite having used Glide prior, used some Neosporin on it, but infection had already started to grow.

Stepping off of soapbox now, gingerly….

Note from Cindy

This blog post was written eight months prior to being posted…I was so terribly embarrassed by the situation and while I knew it would be helpful for others, I just couldn’t get myself to post it.

It truly took three weeks to clear up, was nearly debilitating and excruciatingly painful. Fortunately I was scheduled for vacation so only had to use a couple days of sick leave from work, but it ruined my vacation. I actually lost 25 pounds because using the restroom was so painful that I avoided eating and drinking more than absolutely necessary for survival! Sleep required narcotics and I tried to sleep as much as possible to pass the time, as I absolutely could not do anything else. I did research on home remedies and tried them all, including applications of witch hazel, Listerine, isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, Tucks pads, thyme oil, tea tree oil, etc. etc. (yes, application of Listerine, witch hazel, and rubbing alcohol hurt like a mother!). There were times I thought I would go out of my mind. I finally convinced my reluctant physician (who is no longer my physician due to his reluctance to help me in this situation) to prescribe the anti-fungal Diflucan (fluconazol). It took two doses of Diflucan to completely clear up the infection, although my symptoms started to decrease about two days after my first dose.

My closest friends and Mother Superior knew about what happened after my marathon, and I’ve shared my story with some others, but as time has passed and with encouragement of my friends, I have decided to share my very, very personal lesson learned so that maybe, just maybe someone else does not have to go through what I went through!

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