Is Jock Itch Contagious?

Many people wonder whether jock itch is contagious, since its scaly reddish or pink spots around the groin seem like they could be passed on to a sexual partner. In this article, that question will be answered, along with how jock itch can easily be treated by anyone, even without a prescription.

Jock Itch

The medical term for jock itch is tinea cruris, which translates to ringworm of the groin. When someone is infected with jock itch, it will generally cause itchy, scaly spots that are pink or red in color, to appear in several places around the mid-section of the body, including the area of the groin, the inner thighs, and possibly even the buttocks.

It may spread to the area around the anus, causing some fairly severe discomfort and itching, but the infection rarely spreads to the penis or the scrotum. When trying to identify jock itch, the rash which accompanies the infection appears to be shaped like a ring, with the outer edge of the ring more reddish in color, and the inner part of the ring being clear.

This rash may start blistering and issue fluid, which will need to be gently wiped with an antiseptic cloth or tissue. The infection sometimes causes the area of the affected skin to become darker or lighter than it was originally, and this condition can persist well after the infection itself has been cleared up.

Causes of jock itch

According to the medical journal Mycoses, most instances of jock itch are triggered by fungi known as Epidermophyton floccosum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and T. rubrum, all three of which are examples of dermatophytes fungi. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified more than 40 kinds of fungi that can cause ringworm, but only the three mentioned above are the culprits for jock itch.

These three require moist, warm areas to survive, and although jock itch can plague both men and women, it is far more common in adult men and teenage boys, since there is much more likely to be moisture between the scrotum and the inner thigh in males. In women, it is most likely to develop beneath the breasts, where warm, moist conditions sometimes prevail.

People are more at risk for developing jock itch when they wear wet or tight clothing over a very prolonged period, because this creates the conditions necessary for the fungi to thrive. It's also more likely for those who are obese to develop jock itch, because there's usually a great deal more moisture which gets trapped by the folds of the skin in the groin area.

Is jock itch contagious?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and it's a pretty resounding yes at that. It's very easy to acquire jock itch by coming into skin-to-skin contact with another person who is already infected. It's also possible to acquire the infection by wearing the same clothes that another infected person wore, or by using the same towel used by an infected person when it wasn't washed in between uses.

You can also develop jock itch as a result of spreading an entirely different ringworm infection such as athlete's foot to the groin area. All that would have to happen is that your infected foot comes into contact with undergarments or the skin itself around the groin area, in order for the infection to transfer to the groin and become jock itch.

It's also quite possible to use a towel to wash off your infected athlete's foot area, and then dry off the groin area with the same towel before washing it. In effect, the athlete's foot ringworm will transform into jock itch ringworm after the transmission has taken place and the ringworm has a chance to grow in the new surroundings.

Treating jock itch

Jock itch is very treatable with over-the-counter medications if it's identified early on and managed conscientiously. There are many different lotions, powders, and antifungal creams which can be used to control the fungus, if applied regularly for 3 to 4 weeks continuously.

Some of the medications often used in this regard are Naftin, Nizoral, Xolegel, Extina, Oxistat, Daktarin, Lotrimin, and Zeasorb. If the infection site becomes extremely broad in nature, or if it is difficult to treat for some reason, or if there is a good deal of inflammation associated with the affected site, it is probably better to obtain a prescription from your family doctor for treating the jock itch.

Some of the best prescription medications for treating jock itch are Sporanox and Onmel, Lamisil, or Terbinex. The severity of jock itch is generally not as intense as you might find with athlete's foot and some of the other common ringworm infections. However, jock itch has a tendency to last longer than most other ringworm infections, even when it is faithfully treated for an entire month.

How can jock itch be identified?

Whenever you see a scaly, reddish rash which is slightly raised above the skin level, and appears dry and flaky, this could be a ringworm infection. When this rash is located in the area around the groin, buttocks, or inner thighs, it is fairly likely that the type of ringworm infection you have is jock itch.

When to see a doctor for jock itch

Many people do attempt to use home remedies to manage and cure jock itch, but the best approach is to see your family doctor for proper diagnosis, and then to accept any advice given for treatment. You should see your family doctor as soon as any of the following signs appear, and become uncomfortable:

  • you find a new, itchy reddish colored rash in the area around your genitals or in your groin
  • see the doctor again if the rash spreads or changes at all in appearance
  • if the itchiness and discomfort become a major distraction, or if they become intolerable
  • definitely see your doctor if you notice swelling of the affected areas, or if lumps begin appearing within the rash
  • if you do not see noticeable improvement of the affected area after two weeks of treatment, return to your doctor and seek further advice
  • you should also go back to see your doctor if the rash does not disappear completely after one month, or if it recurs even after good hygiene practices are implemented

You should go to an emergency medical care clinic, or go to the hospital if any of the following symptoms associated with your jock itch rash develop:

  • open sores, ulcers, or boils
  • the rash spreads to the vaginal area or to the penis
  • if you have difficulty urinating, or if there is a noticeable pain associated with urinating
  • in cases where the rash spreads to your trunk area, this is also cause for emergency concern
  • drainage of pus from blisters on the rash
  • when your glands become swollen
  • when the rash itself spreads very quickly over the affected area
  • if you experience severe nausea or vomiting
  • if you have feelings of fatigue or weakness
  • when you develop a fever or flu-like symptoms

Preventing jock itch

There are some precautions you can take in order to lower your risk of developing jock itch, and the more conscientious you are in observing these warnings, the likelier it will be that you never develop jock itch. It's always best to avoid tight-fitting undergarments and athletic supporters, because these exacerbate the moisture-developing conditions needed by fungi to get started.

Never share clothing, towels, or any other items of a personal nature which have been used by other people, unless they have been thoroughly washed beforehand. In particular, athletic supporters should never be re-used by individuals without a thorough washing first.

To the greatest extent possible, try to maintain dry conditions in your groin, inner thighs, and buttocks, so the conditions for spawning fungi are simply not available. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to regularly use powder in the groin area when it's warm out, and by drying very thoroughly with an unused, clean towel every time you get wet, or after bathing and showering.

If you have any other kinds of ringworm, for example athlete's foot, make sure they are treated constantly, and that there is no transfer from one site to the other via towels or any other articles of clothing.