Even the best workouts have their downsides — and sometimes it comes in the form of jock itch: That inflamed, prickly rash developing down south when you get too sweaty after a pickup game, leg day, or a run. It's not the most serious medical malady (or even the most common) according to Tim Bream, Penn State athletics director, but it is annoying, gross, and most definitely avoidable.
"Jock itch can be prevalent especially when you're dealing with individuals who are getting sweaty and not showering right away, or staying in their wet or sweaty clothing for a while afterwards," Bream says. "Because it is a fungus, they breed in dark, wet, heated climates."
But you don't have to fall victim to it. If you notice a "reddish-brown" irritation on both sides of your groin (it'll advance down your inner thigh, and yes, it will noticeably itch), Bream says you should handle it right away. "The area is usually really sore, and it gets kind of scaly on the outer edges, but it's really raw right in the fold," he says. The first thing to do is grab an over-the-counter topical cream, which should bring relief in two to three days, though it can also take up to a week. You should also wear cotton shorts underneath your regular workout shorts to keep the moisture away from the groin in the meantime.
If the area gets really swollen or painful, is advancing in size, or just isn't going away, Bream says it's time to see a doctor for prescription steroid cream. "Jock itch is truly a fungus, so it can advance into bacterial infection," Bream says. "It can make you sick, and you'd have to see a physician for antibiotics."
Winter can be especially tricky. "It gets bad because guys are layering clothes on and having them on for a long time, and they get hot or cold down there, and that causes a breeding environment for the fungus," says Bream. All in all, jock itch is avoidable with some obvious hygiene and clean, dry clothes. A little light effort could save you a week's worth of pain.