Body Fungus

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - June 16, 2006
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For the first time in 27 years I got what Hawaii folks call haole rot - or kane - the white spots often seen on people’s back, neck and face.

A very common sight in the Islands, haole rot is a medical condition that can affect people all over the world. However, on the Mainland and in the medical field, it’s known as tinea versicolor.

So how do you get haole rot? The answer is simple: from someone who has it. Yes, it’s contagious!

“Haole rot is a skin fungus that is transmitted to you,” explains Dr. Stephen Tenby. “You can catch it by sharing towels or by lying on a wet lounge chair, a pool deck or any moist surface that has been contaminated by someone who has it.”

Haole rot is usually more noticeable with sun exposure as all areas of your skin gets tan except for where you have the fungus.


Fortunately it can be treated with a topical or oral medication prescribed by a doctor, and it takes only a week to two weeks to go away, depending on the severity of it.

“Haole rot is extremely common,” adds Tenby. “I probably see two to three cases each week. My patients will come in for something else and I’ll notice it and say let’s treat that.”

Haole rot is not cancerous and not a major health hazard. In fact, you can live your entire life without treating it. However, Tenby suggests having any white spots or discoloring of the skin checked to make sure that it’s just haole rot and nothing more serious.

And while I’ve heard from more than just a few people that applying Selsun Blue to haole rot affected areas can get rid of it, the doctors I spoke to do not recommend it.

“We used to use Selsun Blue because it has selenium sulfide, but the product now may be too toxic for your skin and it doesn’t work,” says Tenby. “The medication that I would treat it with is like an acne wash or benzyl peroxide.”


So if you love the sun as I do, stay away from people with haole rot. Or at least don’t share towels with them.

Ways to prevent haole rot: * Use your own towel at all times.

* Avoid moist contact with someone you know who has it.

* For people who have a history of haole rot, avoid excessive heat and sweating.

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