Antifungal medicines are used to treat fungal infections, which most commonly affect your skin, hair and nails.
You can get some antifungal medicines from a pharmacy without needing a GP prescription.
Infections antifungals can treat
Fungal infections commonly treated with antifungals include:
- athlete’s foot
- fungal nail infection
- vaginal thrush
- some types of severe dandruff
Some fungal infections can grow inside the body and need to be treated in hospital.
- aspergillosis, which affects the lungs
- fungal meningitis, which affects the brain
You’re more at risk of getting one of these more serious fungal infections if you have a weakened immune system – for example, if you’re taking medicines to suppress your immune system.
You can get antifungal medicines as:
- a cream, gel, ointment or spray
- a capsule, tablet or liquid
- an injection
- a pessary: a small and soft tablet you put inside the vagina
Common names for antifungal medicines include:
- clotrimazole (Canesten)
- terbinafine (Lamisil)
- fluconazole (Diflucan)
- ketoconazole (Daktarin)
- nystatin (Nystan)
How antifungal medicines work
Antifungal medicines work by either:
- killing the fungus
- preventing the fungus from growing
See a pharmacist or GP if you think you have a fungal infection. They can advise you on which antifungal medicine is best for you.
If you take too much antifungal medicine, call 111 or speak to a pharmacist or GP.
If you’re advised to go to hospital, take the medicine’s packaging with you so the healthcare professionals who treat you know what you’ve taken.
Things to consider when using antifungal medicines
Before taking antifungal medicines, speak to a pharmacist or GP about:
- any existing conditions or allergies that may affect your treatment for fungal infection
- the possible side effects of antifungal medicines
- whether the antifungal medicine may interact with other medicines you may already be taking
- whether your antifungal medicine is suitable to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding – many are not suitable
You can also check the patient information leaflet that comes with your antifungal medicine for more information.
Side effects of antifungal medicines
Antifungal medicines may cause side effects. These are usually mild and do not last long.
They can include:
- itching or burning
- feeling sick
- tummy (abdominal) pain
- a rash
Occasionally, antifungal medicines may cause a more severe reaction, such as:
- an allergic reaction – your face, neck or tongue may swell and you may have difficulty breathing
- a severe skin reaction – such as peeling or blistering skin
- liver damage (very rarely) – you may have loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, jaundice, dark pee or pale poo, tiredness or weakness
Stop using the medicine if you have these severe side effects, and see a GP or pharmacist to find an alternative.