What Is Jock Itch?

Jock itch is a skin infection caused by a fungus. It's called jock itch because it's commonly seen in active kids who sweat a lot while playing sports. But anyone can get this infection.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Jock Itch?

Jock itch (or tinea cruris) usually causes redness, flakiness, peeling, or cracking of the skin in the groin, thigh, and buttocks area. The rash can look circular, with well-defined or even elevated edges. It can also spread to the area around the anus (where poop comes out). It may itch, sting, or burn, or simply feel uncomfortable.

What Causes Jock Itch?

A fungus is a microscopic plant-like organism that thrives in damp, warm environments. Fungi usually aren't dangerous. But when they infect the skin, they cause mild but annoying rashes (also known as tinea infections).

Jock itch is caused by fungi that normally live on the skin, hair, and nails, called dermatophytes. When the groin, upper thighs, and buttocks area gets warm and moist, they can grow out of control and start to cause symptoms.

Is Jock Itch Contagious?

Yes. Jock itch can spread from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact, especially in warm, damp environments. It can also spread to other areas of the body if someone touches the affected area and touches other body parts. Jock itch often spreads from a fungal infection on the feet, known as athlete's foot.

Who Gets Jock Itch?

Jock itch can affect anyone who tends to sweat a lot. It most often affects boys, but girls can get it too.

Things that can make jock itch more likely include:

  • lots of sweating while playing sports
  • hot and humid weather
  • friction from wearing tight clothes (like bathing suits) for long periods
  • sharing clothes or towels with others
  • not drying the skin well after sweating, bathing, or swimming
  • some health conditions (such as diabetes, obesity, or immune system problems)

How Is Jock Itch Diagnosed?

A doctor can often diagnose jock itch just by looking at it and asking about symptoms and the child's lifestyle. Sometimes the doctor will scrape off a small sample of the flaky infected skin to look at under a microscope or to test in a laboratory.

How Is Jock Itch Treated?

Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, sprays or powders may solve the problem if it is mild. More serious infections may need prescription medicine, either topical (applied to skin) or in pill form.

Your child should use the medicine as long as is recommended, even if the rash seems to be getting better. If not, the infection can come back. Some people regularly use medicated powders and sprays to prevent this from happening.

To help heal the skin, it's important to keep the affected area clean and dry. Your child should:

  • Wash and then dry the area with a clean towel. (A separate clean towel should be used for the rest of the body.)
  • Apply the antifungal cream, powder, or spray as directed on the label.
  • Change clothing, especially underwear, every day.
  • Treat any other fungal infections, such as athlete's foot.

How Long Does Jock Itch Last?

Jock itch is usually less severe than other tinea infections. If it's not treated, though, it can last for weeks or months.

Can Jock Itch Be Prevented?

Jock itch often can be prevented. To avoid it, kids and teens should:

  • Keep the groin area clean and dry. They should wash daily and dry off completely, particularly after showering, swimming, and sweaty activities.
  • Use clean towels and avoid sharing clothing and towels.
  • Wash athletic supporters (jock straps) as often as possible.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
  • Change clothing, especially underwear, every day.
  • Treat any other fungal infections, such as athlete's foot. Kids with athlete's foot should dry their feet with a separate towel. Then, they should put socks on before underwear so that fungus from the feet doesn't get on the underwear.
  • Use a powder in the groin area every day to help reduce sweating.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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