Jock Itch in the Summer: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Do you battle with an itchy rash on your groin and upper thighs during summer?

A red, itchy rash in your nether regions is less than ideal. Unfortunately, high humidity and extreme heat can trigger an embarrassing groin rash called a jock itch.

In this article, we explain jock itch risk factors, causes, and symptoms. We'll also tell you about how to treat and prevent this rash, as well as the best jock itch cream to use.

You can stop googling images of severe jock itch and comparing them to your rash. We have the information you need to put your mind — and skin — at ease!

What is jock itch?

Jock itch is a skin infection caused by a fungal overgrowth that affects the groin, upper thighs, and buttocks.

The scientific name for the infection is tinea cruris. It's called jock itch because it typically affects men and spreads in locker rooms among male athletes. It may also be known as "jock rot", "crotch itch", or "gym itch."

The symptoms of jock itch include:

  • An itchy, raised rash on the groin
  • A ring-shaped rash with red edges
  • Flakey, scaly skin
  • Red, grey, or brown skin areas — depending on your skin color

It flares up when moisture and heat accumulate in the groin area. It's associated with summer, intense exercise, and wearing tight underwear and workout clothes.

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Jock itch causes

Jock itch is caused by an overgrowth of microscopic skin fungi known as dermatophytes. We all have these fungi living on our skin in small amounts — they make up a healthy skin microbiome.

However, the warm, dark, and moist environment in the groin and inner thigh area allows the fungus to grow out of control. When this happens, it may cause infection in susceptible people. It's also triggered by using damp towels and wearing sweaty underwear, jockstraps, and sports cups. Plus, if you have a fungal infection elsewhere, you can spread it to your groin if you aren't fastidious with hygiene.

A man exercising in the heat as a trigger for jock itch

The following factors may also make you more likely to experience a jock itch infection:

  • Being male
  • Being an athlete
  • Living in a hot, humid climate
  • Wearing tight underwear
  • Wearing tight pants when working out
  • Playing contact sports
  • Sweating excessively
  • Sitting in a wet swimsuit
  • Reusing workout clothes and towels before washing them
  • Sharing towels
  • Using public showers and gyms
  • Having athlete’s foot
  • Being diabetic
  • Being overweight
  • Having a compromised immune system

While jock itch can feel unbearable, it is easy to prevent and treat — provided you know how to address it correctly.

Jock itch FAQ

If you're wondering "is jock itch contagious" or "how long does jock itch last" — you've come to the right place!

At WeatherWell, we've compiled some of the most common FAQs about jock itch.

What does jock itch look like?

Jock itch is a flat, itchy rash that develops in the skin folds and on the sides of the groin. It may become ring-shaped and spread outwards to the upper thigh and buttocks. The borders of the rash are well-defined, raised, and red, while the inner area may turn brown and become flaky. You may experience small jock itch blisters that develop around the border of the rash.

It's uncommon to see jock itch on the shaft of the penis or scrotum in men or the vulva in women.

Does jock itch smell?

A jock itch smell is given off by the infection-causing fungi. It's described as yeasty or sour. If your jock itch is associated with poor personal hygiene, there may be a musty odor from sweat and bacteria accumulating.

Regularly showering, changing clothes, and using an antifungal wash in the area can help to clear up the jock itch smell.

Is jock itch contagious?

The fungal infection that causes jock itch is contagious and spreads when in close contact with someone who has it. You can catch it when sharing towels and clothes or during sexual contact with an infected person.

Can women get jock itch?

Jock itch is sometimes talked about as if it only affects athletes and men. So, can women get jock itch?

Yes, jock itch affects both genders. It's less common in women because they don't have as many sweat glands or as much friction in the groin area as men. Women may get the rash under the breasts, where sweat accumulates.

How long does jock itch last?

Unfortunately, jock itch won't resolve easily on its own. How long jock itch lasts depends on when you seek treatment. With treatment, it clears up within 2-4 weeks. Without treatment, jock itch can linger for months.

Jock itch diagnosis

Many people do everything to avoid the embarrassment of going to a doctor, including looking up pictures of jock itch. But consulting a doctor for a diagnosis can give you peace of mind and ensure you get treatment.

When to see a doctor about jock itch

If you're experiencing an itchy, raised rash in your groin area, you should see a doctor for advice. Don't worry — your rash will likely be one of many your doctor has seen!

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The doctor will ask about your hygiene habits and examine the rash. Usually, they can identify the condition by sight and prescribe the best jock itch cream. In some cases, your doctor may take a skin culture or biopsy.

Jock itch treatment

Jock itch is a mild condition that can be treated at home with antifungal cream, good hygiene, and lifestyle changes.

Jock itch medications

There are several treatment options available over the counter (OTC) and on prescription.

The most common and effective jock itch medications and remedies include:

  • Topical jock itch antifungal cream with such ingredients as azoles, allylamines, butenafine, ciclopirox, tolnaftate, or amorolfine
  • Antifungal soap or body wash to clean inside skin folds and hard-to-reach areas
  • Jock itch powder to absorb moisture and keep the groin dry
  • A jock itch spray with antifungal ingredients
  • Diluted tea tree oil applied to the groin area for antifungal properties

Your doctor may suggest using a combination of an antifungal body wash, an antifungal ointment, and a jock itch powder for best results.

Jock itch healing stages

The jock itch healing stages can feel slow when you're dealing with this type of rash. In the early stages, itching and skin irritation stop quickly with treatment. Next, your skin will flatten out as jock itch blisters and the raised rash heal. The redness will turn a darker color.

Skin discoloration may persist for a few weeks but will fade with time.

However, don't stop treatment as soon as the itching stops. Always complete your course of treatment as advised by your doctor or pharmacist. Even if you have the best jock itch cream, it won't heal if you don't use it consistently and correctly!

Prevent jock itch

If you're tired of getting a rash on your groin every time summer rolls around, there are tips you can use to prevent it before it starts.

1. Wear loose-fitting clothes

Wear loose-fitting underwear and pants that don't chafe your thighs and groin area during exercise. Look for clothes made from breathable fabric like cotton. Men may benefit from wearing boxers instead of briefs.

Antifungal soap to prevent jock itch

2. Maintain good hygiene

Good personal hygiene is crucial to prevent fungal skin infections from developing.

  • Shower and change your underwear daily.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wash your clothes and bedding regularly.
  • Change out of sweaty workout clothes immediately.
  • Don't share clothes and towels with other people.
  • Never walk barefoot in public showers and at public pools.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone with an active jock itch infection.
  • Wipe down gym equipment with antifungal wipes before using it.

3. Keep your groin dry

A sweaty groin — from the summer heat, wearing tight clothes, or engaging in intense exercise — is the main culprit behind jock itch.

These are our best tips for keeping the area dry:

  • Dry your groin and upper thighs well with a clean towel before you get dressed after a shower or swim.
  • Apply an antifungal jock itch powder to the area to absorb moisture and stay dry all day.
  • Avoid sitting in sweaty clothes after a workout.
  • Choose underwear made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics.

Jock itch won't go away. What to do?

If your jock itch won't go away despite using jock itch antifungal cream and seeing your doctor, it may have become treatment resistant. Your doctor may prescribe you oral antifungal medications.

You may need a skin biopsy if symptoms don’t resolve within a month of using jock itch medication.

Please seek medical attention if your groin rash:

  • Is swollen and painful
  • Spreads beyond your thighs
  • Develops on your genitals
  • If you have a fever

In conclusion

Jock itch is a common fungal skin infection that usually strikes in summer, causing redness and itching in the groin. It affects both men and women and can spread from one person to another.

While this condition is annoying and embarrassing, with lifestyle changes and antifungal cream, jock itch resolves rapidly. Keeping your groin dry and clean speeds up healing and helps you avoid a recurrence of jock itch.

February 7, 2023