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According to the American Academy of Dermatology, athlete’s foot – or tinea pedis – is a common fungal infection that can affect anybody, not just athletes. It is also called foot ringworm, and the fungi that cause tinea pedis can cause ringworm on your body or jock itch. These fungi live in warm and moist areas and can spread from person to person. If someone with athlete’s foot walks around a shower room with bare feet, athlete’s foot fungi can easily spread to another person walking with bare feet.
What Does Athlete’s Foot Look Like?
Athlete’s foot can occur on one or both feet. It commonly starts in the moist areas between your toes, but it can also affect the bottom and sides of your feet. This infection causes cracks in your skin along with silvery, white scales. Your skin may have a red or purple discoloration. There may also be blisters. Symptoms of athlete’s foot are itching, burning, and stinging. Symptoms may be worse after taking off your socks or shoes.
How Do You Get Athlete’s Foot?
Because athletes foot fungi are common, you may get an infection from walking barefoot on any wet surface where other people are walking, such as a shower room, locker room, area around a steam room or sauna, or a swimming pool. Infection is more likely if your feet become warm and sweaty inside your socks or shoes. At any given time, up to10 percent of people have athletes foot fungi between their toes. Athlete’s foot is more common in men. Because athlete’s foot can spread from person to person, you can also get it if you share towels, shoes, socks, or sheets with a person who has athlete’s foot.
How to Get Rid of Athlete’s Foot at Home
If you have the signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot, start by using an over-the-counter anti-fungal spray, ointment, or powder. There are many antifungals, with brand names like Gold Bond, Tinactin, and Lotrimin. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist and follow the directions for use.
You can help get rid of athlete’s foot and prevent another infection by following these tips:
- Wear water-proof flip-flops or sandals whenever you are walking in wet public places.
- Wash your feet every day and dry completely between your toes with a clean towel.
- If you had athlete’s foot in the past, you can use a medicated foot powder or sprays after washing and drying your feet.
- Wear sandals or light canvas shoes in warm weather.
- Change your socks every day, and make sure the socks are made from natural fibers like wool or cotton that absorb moisture.
- Change your shoes frequently so your shoes have time to dry out.
- Don’t share towels, socks, shoes, or sheets.
- Avoid plastic or tight shoes that make your feet sweat.
When to Call the Doctor About Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot can sometimes become a more serious bacterial infection. If you see pus coming from the cracks in
your feet, you have more redness, swelling, pain, or fever, see your health care provider. Athlete’s foot can also look and act like other foot diseases, especially foot psoriasis. If you have tried treatment at home and your feet have not improved in two weeks, see your health care provider.
A doctor may do a scaping of your skin and look for fungi under a microscope. Sometimes a more severe fungal infection may need a prescription-strength, anti-fungal cream or ointment. Oral anti-fungal medications may be prescribed for severe infections or for a fungal infection that has spread to your toenails. These oral medications are very effective when needed.
How Long Does Athlete’s Foot Last?
Untreated athlete’s foot can last a long time. It can also go away and keep coming back. In most cases, once you start home treatment, symptoms will go away in a few days and you should be free from the infection in one to two weeks.