Athlete's Foot

What is athlete's foot?

Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the foot. It is often found between the toes, although it can spread to the rest of the foot, and sometimes to other parts of the body. It is also known as Tinea pedis or foot ringworm.

What causes athlete's foot?

We all have one or more of the fungi which cause athlete's foot living on our bodies. These fungi survive on dead skin cells found on the skin, nails and hair. They grow best in dark, damp places with poor ventilation. They are usually harmless, and don't cause athlete's foot unless conditions are right.

These conditions include having sweaty feet, wearing tight shoes, and wearing socks that don't absorb moisture. It is also extremely important to dry your feet properly after swimming or washing.

Is athlete's foot contagious?

Yes. Athlete's foot can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. It can also be spread indirectly, for example through using the towel of somebody with the condition.

While athlete's foot is often associated with swimming pools and gymnasiums, it is now thought to be quite difficult to pick up the condition simply by walking barefoot on a contaminated floor. However it is still possible, therefore precautions are needed.

What are the symptoms of athlete's foot?

Symptoms include:

  • An itchy, red rash, which often starts in between the 4th and 5th toes, before spreading to the other toes.
  • Scaling or cracking of the skin may occur.
  • Blisters can occur. If these burst, they can cause pain and swelling.
  • The infection can spread to the rest of the foot.
  • In some cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body.

How can I prevent athlete's foot?

  • Wash your feet daily and ensure you dry them properly before you put on socks and shoes.
  • Put powder on your feet and inside your shoes.
  • Change your socks daily or change them if they become damp.
  • Try to wear cotton socks.
  • Avoid wearing tight shoes, or shoes made of synthetic material, such as runners. If you do wear runners, always wear cotton socks with them.
  • If you are in a hot climate, avoid socks altogether. Give your feet plenty of ventilation by wearing something like sandals. Go barefoot as much as possible.
  • You can get special, protective socks, which you can wear while swimming. These are especially useful if you use public swimming pools.
  • If somebody in your family has athlete's foot, do not share clothes or towels with them, and make sure possibly contaminated areas, such as the bathroom floor or the shower, are regularly washed in hot, soapy water.

What should I do if I suspect I have athlete's foot?

If you suspect you have athlete's foot, visit your doctor, so that he or she can determine the best course of treatment and rule out any other possible infections.

In the meantime, make sure you wash and dry your feet properly, and avoid tight or synthetic footwear.

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