Did you know that you don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot?
While this irritating condition commonly lurks in moist environments such as locker rooms and swimming pool decks, walking barefoot in any public place—such as a hotel room—may invite foot troubles.
Flaky, cracking, itchy skin on the soles of the foot or between toes are classic symptoms of athlete’s foot (a fungus called Tinea pedis). According to the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, T. pedis “can live in footwear and on surfaces of mats, rugs, clothes and linens for up to six months.”
Prevention Is Best
“The only part of a shoe’s environment that you can control is dampness,” says podiatrist Nick Taweel, DPM, DPT. “Ventilate your feet, wear clean socks every day and change socks if your feet get wet.” Waterproof or tight shoes may especially problematic.
“Alternate shoes daily, so they can dry between wearings. After exercising, allow gym shoes to dry thoroughly rather than zipping them up in a dark, damp gym bag,” advises Jane Andersen, DPM. Wear sandals or shower shoes whenever you walk around communal areas, such as locker rooms.
Andersen suggests wearing socks made of quick-drying fabrics like acrylic that wick moisture away from skin (cotton holds moisture). Keep your feet dry at all times; foot powder may help. Avoid applying moisturizer between your toes.
Try Natural Remedies
If you are sure athlete’s foot is the proper diagnosis, a common home remedy is tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), a natural antiseptic. Apply it to the affected area in either oil, powder or spray form.†
Another way to help ease burning and itching is to soak feet in equal parts vinegar and water two times a day. “Even soaking in a very mild bleach solution can be helpful,” Taweel says.†
Be sure to disinfect the shower and your shoes. Wash infected socks in bleach and hot water; lower temperatures will not kill T. pedis.
Disinfect gym bags and backpacks regularly if they can’t be washed, or use disinfectant wipes to sanitize.
A persistent case of athlete’s foot could spread to toenails; controlling it is important because treating skin is easier than treating toenails, Anderson explains. “It’s also possible to develop an infection since fissures in skin are open portals for bacteria to get in,” she adds.
If you have diabetes, see your practitioner immediately. “The fungus weakens defenses in a diabetic person, so bacteria could invade the skin and develop a secondary infection,” Taweel explains. Recurring athlete’s foot or the foot becoming swollen or infected should also prompt a practitioner’s visit. (Pregnant or nursing women should check with their obstetricians before using any topical or oral medications.)
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.