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Fungi can include any member of a large group of organisms that obtain food by absorbing nutrients from an outside source. Unlike plants and animals, fungus steals nutrients and then absorbs it as its own. Fossil records suggest that fungi were present as early as 500 million years ago.

Today, there are thousands of fungi strains that grow on or steal nutrients from soil, wood, decaying organisms, living plants and humans. Because fungi are single celled organisms, they are nearly impossible for the naked eye to see , until after they have already begun to grow and spread.

Fungal infections are caused by the growth of fungi in or on your body. In the young and healthy, fungi infections are minor and involve the hair, skin and nails, and will often clean up on their own or can be successfully treated with over the counter medication.

Athlete's Foot is one of the most common forms of fungal infections in the human environment. Athlete's Foot is generally contained to the area between the soles of the feet and the toes. This mild fungus is usually picked up in warm, public facilities, such as showers, swimming pools and gymnasiums.

Cracked or peeling skin
Stinging pain
Thickened or scaling skin

Mild cases of Athletes Foot require only a change in habit. Using powder to keep feet dry during the day and changing socks frequently is generally sufficient to clear any small irritation and reduce your chances of acquiring it again.

More stubborn cases may require over the counter anti fungal medications. Anything containing griseofulvin, miconazole nitrate and tolnaftate will help to clear medium to difficult infections in seven to ten days.

Athlete's Foot is easily preventable. Keeping feet cool and dry, especially during warm summer months. Using powders or drying lotions is the easiest way to prevent Athlete's Foot. Those prone to excessive perspiration can purchase special socks which helps to wick wetness and keep feet dry.

Open sores that bleed or ooze indicate more than just a mild case of Athlete's Foot. Areas that do not clear up in seven days usually require a thorough examination.

Ringworm infection affects the skin, hair and nails, and tends to infect moist areas of the body, such as the groin, between the toes, and under the arms.

Inflamed, red skin
Scaly distinct borders

Ringworm responds well to self-care. Over the counter anti fungal powders and lotions can be applied to sore, irritated skin. The most successful over the counter drugs for treating ringworm are miconazole and clotrimazole.

Good hygiene goes a long way in preventing ringworm. Keep skin as dry as possible and wash frequently.

Infected sores, massive hair loss and fever all indicate that ringworm has progressed to a more dangerous level, and should be treated by a physician.

Fungal nail infections are usually seen in adults and often, follow an infection of the hands or feet. Nail infections are often difficult to treat and have the tendency to recur.

Brittle, thick nails
Discolored nails
Distorted appearance of nails or nail bedding

Because fungal nail infections are difficult to treat, a physician's treatment is most often recommended. For very minor infections, any anti fungal over the counter medication can be applied to the topical area of the nail and to it's surrounding tissue.

An infection of the skin by Candida, a yeast based fungus, is termed Candidiasis. The most common form of candidiasis is diaper rash. This type of infection can show up almost anywhere, however, including the groin, skin folds, trunk, buttocks, under breasts and on the scalp.

Intense itching
Small bumps just under skin
Blister like pimples
Enlarging patches of rash looking nodules

Treatment for this fungal condition can safely be treated at home with the use of topical anti fungal creams. Keeping the skin clean and dry will help to speed recovery time.