Athlete’s foot is a common phrase used around locker rooms and gym facilities, but while many people have heard of this irritating condition, not many really understand what it is.
Athlete’s foot is not something you have to put up with; knowing what causes the fungal condition and how to treat it conventionally or with natural home remedies can keep you worry-free.
What is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the feet, and despite the name, anyone can develop this condition. It is not just something athletes suffer from. As the name implies, however, athlete’s tend to be at a high risk for the infection simply because of how often they sweat in their footwear—something which can contribute to fungal growth.
Athlete’s foot is also known as “ringworm of the feet,” and is caused by the fungus Trichophyton, which is commonly found on floors and clothing.
Medical News Today indicates Trichophyton requires a warm, moist area in order to grow, which is why only 0.75 percent of people who walk around barefoot pick up the infection. It is also why athlete’s foot is associated with working out; what better environment for fungus to grow than warm, sweaty feet locked into a dark shoe?
Athlete’s foot is contagious, and it is easy to spread the infection through contact with another person or from contact with areas that person has stepped on or items they have used.
What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?
The first warning sign of athlete’s foot , according to the Mayo Clinic, is usually itching, stinging, or burning between the toes or on the soles of the feet.
Other symptoms include:
- Itchy blisters
- Cracking or peeling of the skin, usually between the toes.
- Excessive dryness of the skin on the soles or side of the feet.
- Thick toenails
- Discolored toenails that appear ragged or pull away from the nail bed.
- Oozing from blisters or crack on the feet.
- Rash on the bottom or sides of the feet.
If left untreated, athlete’s foot infection can spread to the scalp or the hands, and individuals may develop a secondary nail infection, which must be treated independently of the foot infection.
Athlete’s foot conventional treatments
Depending on the severity of the athlete’s foot case, treatment options often involve a combination of self-care and over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Ideally, feet should be kept dry, and medicated powders such as the following are available without a prescription.
- Butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
- Clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF)
- Miconazole (Desenex, Zeasorb, others)
- Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
- Tolnaftate (Tinactin, Ting, others)
More advanced athlete’s foot may require prescription-grade anti-fungal topicals or oral medications.
Mild cases of athlete’s foot can be taken care of naturally, according to Discovery Health.
Home remedies and preventative techniques for athlete’s foot include:
- Going barefoot as often as possible to allow air to reach the feet.
- Soak feet for 20 minutes a day in a dilute Betadine solution (do not use if pregnant) to help prevent a secondary bacterial infection from setting in.
- Resist the urge to use bleach or harsh chemicals on your feet; this can cause excessive dryness and cracking, allowing pathogens into the skin.
- Use Lysol or an antifungal spray on your shoes to prevent reinfection. Allow to dry completely.
- Alternate the shoes you wear and always change socks.
- Set shoes out in the sun after use.
- Wear wool, cotton, or acrylic socks to help pull moisture away from feet.
- Sprinkle baking soda into your shoes to absorb moisture.
- Apply a cornstarch paste to feet and nails: brown cornstarch in the oven and then mix with one clove of garlic and a few drops of olive oil. Apply to feet and nails for 15 to 30 minutes then rinse off.
- Eat garlic, which has antifungal properties.
- Soak feet in a cinnamon tea bath: Boil 8-10 broken cinnamon sticks in 4 cups of water. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then steep for 45. Soak feet 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat daily as needed.
- Eat yogurt, which has antifungal properties.
- Rinse feet with the juice from a lemon mixed with 2 ounces of water.
- Soak feet in 1 cup of vinegar mixed with 2 cups of water.
- Soak feet in a black tea bath: Mix 6 black tea bags with I quart of warm water and soak feet for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Soak feet in a salt bath. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt for every cup of water used in the soak, and use for 10 minutes daily.