What is Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is a superficial, contagious, fungal infection of the foot. There are many different fungi which cause the condition. It occurs between the toes and on the bottom of the foot. Although a fungus is the usual cause, it may also be caused by excessive perspiration, reaction to medication or chemicals (such as shoe adhesive or dye), and by conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
What are the Symptoms of Athlete's Foot?
The symptoms usually appear quickly and may include drying, inflammation, and peeling of the skin, intense itching, burning, and finally the appearance of blisters. More than one area of the foot is usually affected, but the problem, especially if caused by a fungus , appears more often between the 3rd, 4th, and 5th toes. If the condition becomes chronic, the skin can become thick, dry, and rough.
A secondary bacterial infection, which may cause an unpleasant odor, can be associated with athlete's foot. A secondary yeast infection may also develop.
How Can I Avoid Getting Athlete's Foot?
- Don't create conditions favorable to fungal growth. Fungus thrives in warm, dark environments such as that caused by sweaty feet in hot, closed shoes.
- Keep feet clean and dry. Use a foot powder if your feet perspire.
- Wear clean, dry, breathable footwear. Don't wear the same shoes two days in a row; allow them a day to dry out.
- Avoid direct exposure to the fungus.
- Be cautious in public places where people walk barefoot such as swimming pools, saunas, and locker rooms.
- Avoid contact with articles that may be contaminated by someone with athlete's foot, such as, footwear, bath mats, and towels.
What Should I Do if I Have Athlete's Foot?
- Use meticulous foot hygiene, including washing between toes with soap and careful drying. Wear clean, absorbent socks and change them often. Don't wear shoes or slippers without socks. Wear ventilated shoes. Expose your feet to air and sunshine.
- Disinfect you footwear. Wash articles in hot soapy water (with bleach if possible). If footwear is not washable, put in a bag in the freezer for 48 hours.
- Athlete's foot usually responds to over-the-counter athlete's foot agents, of which there is a wide selection of brand names. It must be applied at least daily. Be aware that different brands may contain different anti-fungal medications. If one brand doesn't provide relief, one with a different medication may.
- Natural care stores and pharmacies also offer a variety of other products that may help. Although not specifically prescribed for athlete's foot, some people have found them beneficial. For example, Tea Tree Oil is considered to be both an anti-fungal and antibacterial agent. Soaking feet in a vinegar and water solution (1/2 cup vinegar to a basin of water) may help as vinegar is considered to have antibacterial properties.
- Continue treating the fungus for a while after the symptoms are gone. Fungus can lie dormant and resurface again under the right conditions.
- See you doctor if careful self-treatment doesn't result in improvement within two weeks.