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Can Fall’s Wet Weather Cause a Fungal Infection?


written by Skye Sherman - Nov 20, 2023

Photo Credit: by JillWellington, Pixabay.com
Photo Credit: by JillWellington, Pixabay.com

Many people love the fall season for the cozy vibes, cooler weather, and pumpkin spice everything. However, the wetter atmosphere due to increased rain in many places has one decidedly unsavory side effect: more fungus among us. The cool, damp conditions of autumn create the ideal environment for fungi to thrive.

While fungal infections (also known as mycosis) are not limited to any season, and neither is rain, the often wet weather of fall can certainly contribute to an increased risk of contracting fungal infections.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the various factors and infections associated with autumn rain and what you can do about it.

What’s a fungal infection?

Fungal infections are caused by microorganisms known as fungi.

As Cleveland Clinic explains it, “Fungal infections, or mycosis, are diseases caused by a fungus (yeast or mold). Fungal infections are most common on your skin or nails, but fungi (plural of fungus) can also cause infections in your mouth, throat, lungs, urinary tract and many other parts of your body.”

They are classified separately from plants or animals and can spread or send spores into the air. These organisms can be found in every aspect of our environment, including soil, plants, and even on our bodies.

That’s why not all fungus is harmful; some lives naturally in our body, especially our mouth, GI tract, and skin. The problem starts if the fungus overgrows. In most cases, our immune system keeps these fungi in check, but under certain conditions (like warm, humid, or wet weather), fungi can multiply and infect the skin, nails, or other body parts.

To recognize a fungal infection so you can treat it quickly, you should be aware of what to look out for. On your skin, fungal infections can look red, swollen, or bumpy, like a rash. In some cases, there may be a lump under your skin. A fungal infection in your mouth or throat may present as a white coating or patches.

Can rainy days cause fungal infections?

There are a few key factors relating to what makes fall a season where people might be more susceptible to fungal infections. Consider these factors:

1. Increased humidity

One of the key factors contributing to fungal infections in the fall is increased humidity. When the weather turns wet, the air contains more moisture, creating a perfect environment for fungi to grow.

2. Damp footwear

Ever walked around in cold weather with wet feet? It’s not only miserable… it might be what’s behind your fungal infections. Fall weather typically comes with rain, puddles, and damp foliage. As a result, shoes and socks can become wet, creating a breeding ground for fungi.

3. Decreased sunlight

When the days get shorter and the sun less intense during the fall, it becomes more challenging for our bodies to naturally combat fungal infections. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, and its reduced presence during autumn can be a contributing factor to fungal overgrowth.

Common fungal infections to avoid in the fall

Wondering what to look out for? Here’s the rundown on some common fungal infections and how to identify them.

1. Athlete’s foot

This fungal infection thrives in warm, damp conditions. Wearing damp footwear can lead to an increased risk of developing athlete’s foot. This infection is typically characterized by itchy, scaly, and red skin on the feet and between the toes.

2. Ringworm

Ringworm, despite its name, is not caused by a worm but by a fungus. However, it does present as ring-shaped. It can affect the skin, scalp, and nails and is highly contagious.

Avoid spreading ringworm by not sharing personal items like towels, combs, or sports equipment. Yes, that means you shouldn’t loan out your scarves or sweaters unless they’ve been washed and sanitized in between.

3. Nail fungus

Onychomycosis, or nail fungus, is a common fungal infection that affects the toenails and, less frequently, the fingernails. Wearing wet gloves or socks can lead to nail fungus, which often presents as thickened, discolored, or brittle nails.

If you develop a nail fungus, a doctor may prescribe a medication like Jublia to stop the growth of the fungus.

What you eat can cause (or prevent) fungal infections

Did you know your diet may also affect your susceptibility to fungal infections?

Believe it or not, if you eat a lot of sugar, you may be more vulnerable to developing fungal infections, especially yeast infections; candida albicans, a common yeast, thrives on sugar. Excessive sugar can lead to an overgrowth of this yeast, which may result in infections like oral thrush, vaginal yeast infections, and candidiasis.

That piece of Halloween candy isn’t looking quite so appealing anymore, is it? But don’t turn to the bottle either… Alcohol can also be a culprit.

An article in Health reports, “When there’s too much sugar in the body, the immune system becomes suppressed and unable to ward off any bad bacteria; that can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina.”

Whether you have gut issues or not, you might also want to add a probiotic to your daily routine, as they can be helpful tools for managing fungal infections and working as antifungal agents. ScienceDirect reports, “probiotics exert antifungal along with dermal effects, such as improving atopic eczema and atopic dermatitis along with improving skin’s innate immunity.”

You might also want to eat more garlic, lemon, and onion, because these foods have powerful antifungal properties as well.

The Candida Diet reports, “Garlic stimulates the liver and colon, giving it a potent additive effect to your body’s own detoxification processes. Garlic also boosts the function of the lymphatic system, helping it to rid the body of waste more efficiently.”

For more ways to fight fungal infections through your diet, incorporate more tea, coffee, lean proteins like chicken, probiotic-rich foods, non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, ginger, and other whole, healthy foods.

How to prevent fungal infections in the fall

While fall’s wet weather does create favorable conditions for fungal infections, there are several steps you can take to minimize risk.

During every season, but especially in the fall, pay special attention to keeping your feet dry and changing out of wet socks and shoes promptly; wearing breathable clothing, like cotton; taking good care of your feet and hands by trimming your nails regularly and avoiding tight-fitting shoes; and practicing good hygiene overall.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend a course of systemic antifungals, which work by slowing the growth of fungi that cause an infection. One common example is Diflucan, a prescription medication used to treat infections caused by fungus or yeast, which can invade any part of the body, including the mouth, throat, esophagus, lungs, bladder, genital area, and blood.

Other steps you may want to take include being cautious in public spaces like swimming pools, gyms, and locker rooms, where many people touch the same things and a wet environment is the standard. Never walk barefoot, because fungal infections can spread very easily this way.

If you do develop a fungal infection, don’t fret. Treatment is available. Make sure to ask your pharmacist or doctor before starting any prescription or over-the-counter medications.

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