Saturday, January 27, 2018

Fungus Amongus

These days, most of us don't really think about fungal infections other than the occasional athlete's foot. Much of our ability to see fungus as a nuisance rather than a health crisis results from our high level of sanitation. Even when we have "the itch," readily-available over-the-counter products fix it quickly. A long-term emergency may present a different situation.

Once sanitation becomes more difficult -- bathing from a bucket, wearing clothes longer between washes, perspiring mor ein summer or being cooped up inside more in winter -- fungus will seize the opportunity to flourish.

You may think that if you live in the arid west, it isn't a concern. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Here in the high desert, I had a fungal infection which presented as dime-sized round flaky spots on an arm for 2 years because even the dermatologist didn't suspect fungus. He said 'numular psoriasis.' A later MD prescribed some ketoconazole (anti-fungal) body shampoo and my 'numular psoriasis' was gone after 3 showers.

Another time I had a fungal respiratory infection from an air-conditioner at work that had a leak, and grew a nice big colony of fungus right over my desk. A month of fluconasole fixed that one, after several other antibacterial failed. The MD did not want to believe it could be fungal..

So how do you assess your susceptible to fungal infections? First is actually genetics. I am of mostly Northern European descent, and about 25% of us from that gene pool have an immune system that doesn't fight fungus well. Next is exposure. Fungual spores are everywhere, cold seasons and summer. Most require moisture to thrive, but not all do. I guess that means that fungus is a potential everywhere, always, but some people are more likely to start growing it on or in their bodies.

Prevention is, of course, best. Sanitation, dry sanitary facilities, drying yourself well, and changing socks and underwear at least daily will help. Letting your body dry out slightly if you can't bathe will also help. Ensure that your medical kit has a few tubes of various OTC anti-fungal is also important. If you have pets, keep veterinary anti-fungals for them as well, like oral ketoconazole or fluconazole. Ask your MD for a couple of bottles of 2% ketoconazole shampoo as well. It's not terribly expensive and a weekly or monthly scrub may keep fungal infections from running rampant in your group.


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