It is not always easy to know whether a rash on your skin is fungal or bacterial. It could be neither. Fungal or bacterial infection is just one type of rash. There are others not caused by infection, like eczema or dermatitis. Eczema could be hereditary or caused by contact with a skin irritant, and they are not contagious. When you are having an outbreak, it could be an allergy or caused by a virus.
Knowing the difference is important because what it is determines the type of treatment required.
Ringworm is a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes. It usually occurs on the feet (Athlete’s foot), around the inner thighs or the groin (jock itch), on the nails (tinea unguium or onychomycosis), other parts like the back, arms and legs (tinea corporis), and on the scalp (tinea capitis). Women are also susceptible to yeast infection, which is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus known as Candida albicans.
Ringworm is a highly contagious disease. It passes easily from humans to humans, humans to animals and vice versa. Skin fungi can also be acquired from the soil. It takes about 10 days from exposure to the fungus before rashes appear. By the third to fifth day, it becomes unbearably itchy, causing one to involuntarily scratch the rash which then spreads it to other parts of the body.
Rashes like ringworm caused by fungus are usually treated by over-the-counter medicine that contain 1% clotrimazole like Lotrimin and Mycelex, and 1% terbinafine like Lamisil. These are commonly sold as creams, though some antifungal medicine is made into lotion, shampoo and pills.
Bacterial infection is caused by streptococci or staphylococci germs. These types of rashes are usually treated with antibiotics. Bacitracin and Neosporin to treat bacterial infection are also available at the drugstore without prescription.
The most common bacterial infection is impetigo, which affects children more than adults. Impetigo usually appears as blisters on the face, arms or legs. Another form of bacterial infection is cellulitis, which tend to be swollen and tender blisters appearing on the legs. Fever and headache are also symptoms of cellulitis.
Erythrasma is a bacterial infection that can look like jock itch. It appears on skin folds, but unlike jock itch can be found not just on the groin but also under the breasts or around the armpits. They manifest as pale pink or brown skin patches that tend to grow larger if left untreated.
Paronychia is a bacterial skin infection that could develop when there is a fungal infection on the fingernail or toenail. They appear as pus-filled abscesses that are painful. This sort of infection also requires antibiotics along with antifungal treatment for the nail.
Though self care can work, it is always best to consult a doctor when dealing with rashes. If your choice of over-the-counter treatment is not working within two weeks, it is time to stop guessing and get a skin biopsy. This is the safest way to treat your skin infection because bombarding your skin with a succession of medicine is not only expensive but more importantly, could lead to complications that only worsen if not treated properly.