I have read that fungi cannot live without air. Does a couple of minutes in a swimming pool full of chlorinated water kill them as it would a mammal? I've never heard this suggested. Will they survive by enjoying trapped air? Or by "holding their breath" for a long time?

  • $\begingroup$ Is oxygen soluble in water? $\endgroup$ – Alan Boyd Jun 18 '17 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ So would they die if submerged in halon or carbon monoxide? $\endgroup$ – Ruminator Jun 18 '17 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ Mammals have a brain, heart and other vital organs that consume a lot of energy (and therefore oxygen). Fungi don't need that kinda stuff and therefore don't need a lot of oxygen (they can hold their 'breath' for a very long time). $\endgroup$ – Nicolai Jun 19 '17 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ Is your question why chlorinated water doesn't kill fungi, or why they don't drown when submerged like mammals and many other animals would. In the case of either, are you sure that the premise is true? $\endgroup$ – Harris Jun 19 '17 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @HarrisWeinstein Good question. Let me revise my question... $\endgroup$ – Ruminator Jun 19 '17 at 16:18

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that frequent visits to the pool help with fungal infections. Surely, someone from the scientific community must have noticed too, right? So why don't we frequently hear people suggesting to go swimming to treat these infections?

Because scientific results suggest the opposite!

Incidence of occult athlete's foot in swimmers

In our results, 22 swimmers had positive cultures (15%), 8 of these cases had no lesions (36%). They included 7 infections with Trichophyton mentagrophytes (87.5%) and one with T. rubrum (12.5%). We observed one case with a dual infection. Only one sample from the inanimate environment was positive. This study showed a significant incidence of occult athlete's foot in swimmers. To control this endemic problem, adequate preventive measures must be taken.

Foot Infections in Swimming Baths

A 10% random sample of all bathers at a public swimming bath were examined for tinea pedis and verruca.

The overall incidence of tinea pedis was 8·5% and of verruca 4·8%. The incidence of tinea pedis in 205 male adults was 21·5%, in 288 boys 6·3%, in 60 adult females 3·3%, and in 220 girls 0·9%. The incidence of verruca in juveniles ranged from 4·2% in boys to 10·5% in girls.

It was clear that both infections spread within the baths, and since a relatively small proportion of users admitted to taking precautions to avoid contracting or developing infections it seems advisable that more publicity about recommendations on foot care should be provided.

Onychomycosis in Icelandic Swimmers

The prevalence of culture-positive onychomycosis was 15% in women and 26% in men. Our results suggest that onychomycosis of the toenails is at least 3 times more prevalent in swimmers than in the rest of the population.

Does this mean that not only is going to the swimming pool not a cure of fungal infections, but it is actually the cause? Well, maybe not. While the articles show that there is a larger incidence of fungal infections among swimmers, they only show correlation, not causality. People who partake in sports activities have a bigger chance of having these infections than the general public. These are also the people who are more likely to go swimming.

To settle the matter for good, we need an article named "Prevalence of fungal infections among occasionally swimming couch potatoes" :-)


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