A Primer on Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is a common condition that is easily acquired and transmitted. It is a fungal infection that is caused by the same organism responsible for jock itch and ringworm. This fungus thrives in warm, humid environments, which is why damp shoes and socks are the perfect place for it to grow. Wet surfaces such as those found in locker rooms, gyms, and public pools and showers are also areas that routinely play host to athlete’s foot. The infection is contagious and can be spread directly from one person to another or by contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the fungus, such as towels, shoes, socks, and floors.
Athlete’s foot is typically characterized by a red, scaly rash that causes itchiness, stinging, and burning. The rash usually begins between the toes and can spread over the surface of the foot. The affected skin may peel or crack. Some cases may include blistering or ulcers, and the “moccasin variety” of the infection causes dryness on the sole of the foot that can extend up the side. The condition can affect one or both feet, and it can also spread to the toenails, to the groin area, or to a hand or hands (if you scratch or pick at an infected area).
There are several things you can do to help prevent athlete’s foot from developing. First, try to avoid creating the kind of warm and damp environment the fungus depends on by keeping your feet as cool and as dry as possible at all times. Make sure that you dry your feet well after bathing or swimming, and wear sandals or open shoes whenever you can to ensure that your feet can breathe. Keeping your feet and your socks clean will also help discourage the infection. Whenever you go to a public pool or shower, always wear shower shoes or flip-flops to prevent your feet from coming into contact with any potential strains of the fungus. Wearing talcum or anti-fungal powder can also keep the condition at bay. In addition, it is recommended that you let your shoes air out for at least 24 hours after you have worn them.
If you suspect you have athlete’s foot, there are a number of over-the-counter medicated creams, powders, and sprays that can be effective in eradicating the infection. It is important that you apply the medicated product thoroughly and regularly, and that you continue to use it one to two weeks after the infection has cleared up to prevent a reoccurrence. For more serious cases, you should consult a doctor, who can prescribe a stronger cream or anti-fungal pills that should take care of the infection.