What are the most common summer illnesses? Along with sunburn, dehydration and food poisoning there is another candidate that is linked to hot and humid weather – warts and fungal skin infections. They are caused by HPV – the Human Papilloma Virus. This virus thrives on hot, sweaty skin and therefore doctors report more cases of skin infections such as Athlete’s Foot in summer. It is mostly harmless and clears quickly, however it can be quite infectious.
What are warts?
According to Medical News Today, a wart is “a small growth that appears on a person’s hand or feet and looks like a solid blister or a small cauliflower”. They erupt commonly on hands and feet, although they can also grow on other parts of the body. The HPV virus responsible for causing warts, using enters the human body through a bruise, cut or damaged skin. For instance, if you share a wet towel after a swim with someone who already has the HPV, you are at risk of getting the virus. It can spread through the use of public toilets and wet showers where the virus may be present. According to HPV Australia, there are 100 types of HPV.
There are a few different types of warts, the most common of which are:
- The common wart: It usually appears on the back of a finger, toes and knees and is a very commonly found dome shaped wart.
- Plantar warts: These are found on the sole of the foot and can often look like a cauliflower head.
- Mosaic warts: Small black warts that resemble seeds appear all over the sole of the foot. They do not usually hurt but are also very difficult to treat.
- Periungual warts: These are sometimes difficult to diagnose and are found around and under the nail.
- Plane wart: These flat warts, often resembling a boil appear on on the hands, legs, face and other parts of the body.
- Filiform warts: This wart, which often appears on the face, has a single stalk with a few heads on it.
- Genital warts: These are sexually transmitted and need to be treated with care as some high-risk strains of the HPV have the potential to cause cancers.
Treatment for warts
If you have a small growth on the skin and you are not sure what it is, see your GP, who is best qualified to diagnose it. According to WebMD, depending on the type of wart, a GP may prefer not to treat the wart, but wait for it to go away on its own. Often the body develops an immune response to treat the wart. One-fifth of all common warts will disappear in 6 months and two-thirds of them will disappear in two years with no treatment. But since some warts are visually unattractive, people prefer to have them treated or at least reduced.
- OTC products with salicylic acid – usually in gel, liquid or ointment form will soften and remove the abnormal growth of skin cells. Removing dead skin cells with something rough like a pumice stone helps speed the treatment, as does applying duct tape after applying the medication.
- If OTC medication fails, then using liquid nitrogen is the next step. The wart can be frozen using liquid nitrogen. This is usually done by a GP, but there are some home treatments available as well.
- The wart can also be burned using an electric needle or a laser. This procedure can only be done by a GP or referred to a specialist.
- A severe case of warts can be treated by injecting medication to kill the HPV.
Whether you use salicylic acid to go the liquid nitrogen route, warts are unlikely to disappear with one treatment. It often requires persistence and repeated application before you see results. Sometimes the best option is a combination of treatment at the GP’s combined with follow up applications at home. That way your GP can monitor the progress.
What are fungal skin infections?
Fungal skin infections are very common and tend to flare up more in summer like warts. The two most commonly found fungal infections in Australia are Tinea and Candida. According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel, the most common ones are athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm and yeast infection. Communal showers and locker rooms are the hot spots of these infections.
- Athlete’s foot: This condition is also known as Tinea Pedis. It is an infection that occurs between your toes and can spread further if left untreated. It often looks like a patch of white skin, cracked with red areas visible from beneath. The patch may burn and itch. Also avoid sharing the same footwear and socks, that’s how they spread.
- Jock itch: Also known as Tinea Cruris, this fungal infection that happens in the groin and inner thighs can turn red and super itchy. If you already have athlete’s foot, it can spread to your groin, causing Jock itch.
- Ringworm: This infection is called Tine Corporis and is commonly called Ringworm because the eruption looks like a worm under the skin, but there is no worm involved. They appear in circular patches and are very itchy. The patches have clear skin in the middle.
- Candidiasis: Candidiasis is commonly known as thrush and vaginal thrush happens to be the most common type. The infection causes a burning sensation along with itchiness in the genital area. Thrush can occur inside your mouth too and is known as Oral thrush. Symptoms include white patches on your tongue and inner cheeks and soreness. They can occur after a long course of antibiotics or those using steroid inhalers like asthmatics.
Treatment of fungal skin infections:
- Bleach your shower and bathing areas to prevent spreading and relapse of the infection.
- Wash your footwear in hot water, including socks, slacks and stockings.
- To avoid any kind of contact and consequent spreading of the rash, try wearing thongs or no underwear at all.
- In case you wear shoes most of the time, try using an antiperspirant to avoid sweaty feet and your condition from getting worse.
- Apply the given ointments regularly and avoid using any other kind of chemical in the affected area.
- Try keeping the affected area of the skin as dry as possible
- Pets are common carriers of ringworm infections. If you happen to have pets at home, get them checked as soon as possible
- Avoid sharing clothes with others and wash them after every use to prevent the infection from spreading elsewhere
- You can also use OTC anti-fungal creams.
If the skin infection causes discomfort or you are not sure what it is (it is quite easy to misdiagnose), see your GP immediately, so that the exact HPV is identified and correctly treated. Remember hot and humid conditions in summer demand higher standard of hygiene. So be extra careful, especially when using communal facilities.
This blog is brought to you by DoctorDoctor who provides access to in-home after-hours medical care for GPs and their patients in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and Brisbane.
Medical information published on this website is of a general nature only and not intended to be a substitute for informed healthcare professional advice or clinical care. If you have specific healthcare concerns or issues you should consult with a qualified health care professional such as your own GP.