DR. HOOK- Itchy, scratchy: Fungus a friend of warm parts

Gold medals are gold for a reason. However, my skating coach said to me, "Competing is not about winning a medal. It's about doing your best." I replied, "If medals aren't important, then why are they so shiny?" They aren't made of tin or stone.

So somehow I came up with the crazy idea to compete in a solo figure skating program. Trust me: I have no delusions of grandeur (like some people I know in academia). While competing in ice dancing at the US Adult National Figure Skating Championships 2007, I saw how much fun the skaters had in the interpretive programs. So why not? It was my Walter Mitty fantasy.

I picked my music (Toni Basil's "Mickey") and choreographed it with my coach. I started jumping/spinning again (single jumps only– no Brian Boitanos). In November, I competed in a regional competition in Philadelphia just to "test the waters," and little did I know how much angst this performance would cause me! I need a face lift from all my frown lines. But to my delight, I had a great time. The audience was great, and I got a Silver Medal (yes, that's shiny, too!). 

Don't you think from all the hard work I would have come down with athlete's foot?

Fungal skin infections (tinea) are caused by dermatophytes and can occur from the top of the head to the tip of the toe. About five million doctor visits a year are due to tinea, although most people treat their skin infections with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams/sprays. So it's pretty common, although people with diabetes, immunocompromised conditions like AIDS, and in athletics are more at risk.

Tinea corporis is commonly known as ringworm because it looks like a red ring that's slightly raised– but there's no worm underneath, folks! It starts as a red circular lesion and spreads out centrifugally as the center starts to clear up. It can be contagious. In fact, during my research I learned wrestlers with tinea corporis gladiatorum aren't supposed to compete until their fungal infection is treated– to prevent spreading it to other competitors. (I wonder if Oscar winner Russell Crowe will ever do a sequel movie, Tinea Corporis Gladiator.)

Athlete's foot is something constantly mentioned in ads. Spray out that burning, itching foot rash! With tinea pedis, you never want to accidentally put your foot in your mouth. When tinea pedis is acute, it can be red, itchy, and full of blisters. Often it starts between "the little piggy who had none and the little piggy who went ‘wee wee wee wee' all the way home." Chronic tinea pedis can lead to toenail fungal infections and can also be a portal for bacteria to enter– so it shouldn't be taken lightly.

Jock itch, tinea cruris, is more common in men than women because the male anatomy is more conducive to moist, warm areas that fungus just loves. So maybe that's a good reason for men to "go commando." Wearing boxer shorts and using baby powder is usually pretty good at preventing this itchy, scaly infection.

Tinea capitus is on the scalp and causes hair to fall out– well, unless you're Kojak or Dr. Evil. Those who hold kids are most at risk because the kids put their fungal-infected hands onto the adult's head. (I wonder, however, about Donald Trump's super thick hair: can anything penetrate it?) 

The doctor can prescribe good anti-fungals (creams or pills if nuclear war is needed against these critters) to make the skin bright and shiny again– like my pretty silver medal. (Want to see the video? Check out DrJohnHong.com/videos and at the bottom look for "figure skating." But don't laugh at me. Laugh with me.)

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.