athlete's foot head pic

Athlete's foot

I always thought of athlete’s foot being a creature confined to the scary depths to the boy’s locker room at school. Hiding under a pair of discarded sweaty rugby shorts in the corner of the shower. However, if you use a pool, if you go to the gym or the bowling alley you could risk this pesky bugger getting between your toes and making a home for itself. There are some very simple, easy steps to avoid getting athlete’s foot and along with a rundown of symptoms, causes and treatments we have 5 easy steps for prevention mapped out for you below.

+   Symptoms

Athlete’s foot can be confused with a couple of other conditions and may at first just appear to be very dry skin, but if there is persistent itching or stinging with the dry skin it is likely athlete’s foot.

  • Excessively dry skin
    • Pale/ashy looking
    • Commonly starts between toes
  • Flaking or cracked skin
    • May have leave raw inflamed skin underneath
  • Stinging, itching or burning
  • Blisters
  • Thick crumbly toenails
    • As can spread beneath toenail
  • In some cases athlete’s foot can spread to other areas of your body. Usually in other places that stay warm and moist such as your groin or armpits.

+   Causes

Athlete’s foot (also called tinea pedis) is a fungal infection. The fungus is contagious and usually transfers from one person to the next via people walking bare foot on floors or sharing shoes. However, the fungus then needs a warm moist place to grow and spread, if it doesn’t have these conditions it will often just die on your skin. Unfortunately, shoes can offer the perfect breeding ground for the fungus and the fungus finds tight shoes made of synthetic materials that don’t breathe well especially cozy.

+   Treatment

Most cases of athlete’s foot will happily respond to over the counter anti-fungal treatments that are available. They usually come in the form of creams, sprays, powders and liquids. They are all a little different and it will be down to preference what works best for you so talk it through with your pharmacist if you need to. To apply:

  • Make sure the skin is clean and dry
  • Apply the cream to the affected area and a surrounding 4-6cm of normal looking skin
    • Normal looking skin may still be infected but just isn’t showing the symptoms yet
  • Make sure you use the treatment as directed on the pack and for as long as they recommend
    • Even if it looks like the fungus has cleared up the stronger strains of it may still be lurking out of sight
    • Some treatments contain hydrocortisone which can help if the skin is particularly sore, itchy or inflamed. However, you should only use hydrocortisone for 7 days. You may need to switch to a different treatment after a week to clear up the end of the fungus

If the above treatments are not working for you take a trip to your doctor. For severe cases of athlete’s foot they will often prescribe oral anti-fungal treatment.

+   Prevention

Athlete’s foot can be avoided by denying the fungus a place to call home sweet home and making your feet a hostile environment for it. You can do this by doing a few simple things:

  • Keep feet dry
    • Be sure to dry them well especially after walking around at a swimming pool or in a locker room bare foot
    •  Wear waterproof flip flops at the pool or in the locker room
  • Wear shoes made of natural materials and that are well ventilated
    • This will help keep them cool and stop them from sweating badly
  • Change socks regularly
  • Alternate shoes <
  • Avoid sharing shoes
    • Sometimes you may have to at places like bowling alleys or ice skating rinks, just be sure to wear your own clean socks

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