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Athlete’s Foot or Something Else?

Heading into
summer with kids means lots of sweaty shoes and trips to the pool. It’s tough
to know sometimes if an itchy, bumpy foot could be athlete’s foot or something
else like dermatitis, eczema, or sweat rash. If you are concerned about
athlete’s foot, don’t miss this essential guide: 

What is Athlete’s Foot?

A condition that results from a fungal infection, athlete’s foot
(tinea pedis) is also known as ringworm of the foot. It is highly contagious
and can be contracted simply by the foot coming into contact with the
microscopic fungus on the ground (often times in commonly traversed
environments like locker rooms) or contaminated items like towels and shoes.

Athlete’s foot often occurs in the webbed skin between toes, but
can also cause blisters and sores on others parts of the foot and even up the
body on the arms, chest, and fingers. Poor circulation can lead
to foot problems
like athlete’s foot as can wearing wet socks, practicing poor
foot hygiene, walking barefoot in public areas, wearing tight-fitting
closed-toe shoes, and sharing rugs, linens, clothes, or shoes with someone who
has a fungal infection.

The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is closely related to those
which cause jock itch, ringworm, and some nail infections. Athlete’s foot is
extremely common, especially among men, but can often be successfully treated
at home.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

If you’re on the lookout for athlete’s foot, make note of warning
signs including:

  • Scaly red rash (typically beginning
    between toes)
  • Moderate to severe foot itchiness
    (especially right after you remove socks and shoes)
  • Burning and stinging sensation
    between toes or on the soles of the feet
  • Skin on the feet that cracks and
  • Chronic dryness and scaling from
    soles up sides of feet (common with “moccasin athlete’s foot”)
  • Blisters and sores on the foot,
    some developing into ulcers and infection
  • Toenails problems like thick,
    discolored and crumbling nails or ones that pull away from the nailbed
 If you are the mom of an athlete, you may be familiar with many of
these symptoms already, however, it’s not just athletes that can catch the
infection. If you or your child walk around in wet or sweaty shoes during a
summer outing or walk barefoot in the swimming pool changing area, you too can
be susceptible to catching athlete’s foot. It is wholly treatable, however, if
existing conditions that suppress the immune systems are present (like
diabetes), it is recommended you contact a doctor right away.

Treating and Preventing Athlete’s Foot

If you do suspect that you or your child has developed a case of
athlete’s foot, head to the drugstore for some quick at-home treatments.
Over-the-counter antifungal remedies are available in a variety of carriers
including powders, lotions, ointments, and sprays. Follow the directions as
instructed to treat the infection on your foot as well as kill the fungus that
may be in your footwear.

You can also protect your feet and prevent irritating the rash
while it heals by wearing breathable toe caps, placing mole skin over large
blisters, and wearing open-toed shoes and socks that wick away moisture. If
symptoms do not subside, your doctor may prescribe a stronger antifungal
topical medication or in severe cases, an antifungal pill you take by mouth. In
some cases, doctors may need to do further testing to see if your skin reaction
is actually related to a different cause like psoriasis, contact dermatitis, or
dyshidrotic eczema.

Preventing athlete’s foot altogether is simple when you follow
good habits including:

  • Change socks when feet get sweaty
  • Clean and thoroughly dry feet each
  • Wear shoes that are light and
  • Alternate pairs of shoes to allow
    them to sufficiently air out
  • Wear waterproof footwear in public
    places like swimming pools, locker rooms, showers, etc.
  • Powder your feet and socks daily to
    help prevent moisture buildup
  • Don’t share shoes with other people
  • Walk barefoot around your home as
    much as possible
Final Thoughts

If you are looking for alternative therapies for treating
athlete’s foot, you may want to look into tea tree oil (Melaleuca
alternifolia). A 2002 study published in the Australasian
Journal of Dermatology
found that a 50 percent tea tree oil solution
administered to participants with athlete’s foot twice daily over 4 weeks had a
64 percent cure rate.

Don’t let athlete’s foot ruin your family’s fun. Be mindful of
preventative practices and treat it as soon as possible if it does develop.