Athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection that can cause the skin around your feet to become itchy, red, and take on a dry and scale-like appearance that resembles many small popped blisters. It is common, affecting between 3% and 15% of the population at any time. Aside from being frustrating and uncomfortable for those affected, Athlete’s foot is also highly contagious, meaning that it can easily spread through households from everyday circumstances like when one family member showers after the other and stands on the same surfaces in the shower, bath mat and beyond. This is why it’s important to always treat a suspected Athlete’s foot infection as soon as you notice it, before it spreads to other areas of your feet - or to others.
When it comes to treating Athlete’s foot and stopping the spread, knowledge is power. So today our Brisbane podiatrists have shared how to treat your Athlete’s foot fungal infection and prevent a new Athlete’s foot infection from plaguing your household in the future.
Athlete’s Foot: The Basics
Athlete’s foot is medically known as tinea pedis, which translates directly to ‘fungus foot’. It often affects the skin on the soles of the feet and the spaces between the toes. Despite its name, you don’t need to be an Athlete to contract the infection. This name simply stems from the fact that Athletes tend to spend more time with sweaty feet and in moist, sweaty shoes and socks from their athletic training pursuits, as well as spending more time in pool areas, public showers and changing rooms - like at the gym. With that said, sandal wearers can be at risk too, with the hot sun drying the skin so it loses its natural protective oils, and with the potential rubbing and friction from wearing the sandals making you more prone to infection.
The reason that sharing surfaces is a source of infection is because fungus spreads through spores that are very small, lightweight, and are left on surfaces that a bare infected foot comes into contact with. These spores are invisible to the naked eye - with more than 1,000 spores easily fitting on a small pinhead. Once you’re exposed to the fungus, anyone can develop the infection.
Signs you may have Athlete's foot include:
Image credit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279549/
Preventing Athlete’s Foot
Evidence shows that Athlete’s foot is growing in prevalence in both the ageing population and in immunocompromised patients - meaning those that have a weakened immune system. Preventing Athlete’s foot is a matter of taking extra care to keep your feet clean and dry, and protecting them in areas that have a high risk of infection. Our top tips include:
Alternating shoes on a daily basis
It takes shoes 24-48 hours to dry properly from the natural sweat and moisture that builds up, which happens to be an ideal breeding ground for fungus. We recommend having at least two pairs of work shoes that you’re happy to wear on a regular basis, and alternating between the two on different days. This ensures that each pair has a chance to dry well, while minimising the risk of other damage to your skin by keeping them in a moist environment day after day. Don’t forget to remove the insoles from the shoes when drying them, whether they’re the standard insoles that come in the shoes or your custom foot orthotics.
Dry your feet well, especially if you have bunions or toes spaced closely together
Any time your feet get wet, whether it’s after a shower, getting caught in the rain or after swimming, ensure that you take twenty seconds to dry thoroughly between your toes, especially if you’re putting shoes back on. This is especially true if you have a bunion or other foot condition where the toes are positioned closely together, or are pressing against one another. In these cases, ensure you get into those spaces and dry well.
Protect your feet in public places
Ensure you wear thongs in places where you’re sharing surfaces with many other people, like public swimming pools, changing rooms and showers. This immediately prevents you from coming in contact with fungus that may be lingering on the ground.
Choose footwear that has a good-sized toe box
The toe box is the part of the shoe that surrounds your toes. When you wear shoes that are tight or narrow, the toes are crammed into one another, which encourages sweating and traps moisture between the toes, making the skin vulnerable to fungal infections and other damage.
Opt for moisture-wicking socks
If you’re wearing socks on a daily basis, opt for those that wick moisture away from your feet such as those made of bamboo, polyester, merino wool, nylon, Lycra and CoolMax technologies. If your feet are particularly prone to sweating, change your socks halfway through the day.
Keep your household a fungus-free zone
If someone in your household develops an Athlete’s foot infection, encourage them to treat their infection quickly to reduce the likelihood of it spreading to you or other members in your household. Until then, protect your feet with thongs or slippers inside your home, and don’t share the same shoes, socks or bathmats.
Treating Athlete’s Foot
Treating Athlete’s foot starts with confirming the diagnosis, as there are a number of other conditions that appear similar to an Athlete’s foot infection, including foot eczema (specifically podopompholyx), psoriasis, a bacterial infection, or contact dermatitis. This is done during your appointment with your podiatrist.
After your Athlete’s foot infection is confirmed, it’s time to start a specific over-the-counter antifungal medication that your podiatrist will recommend. In some cases, particularly where an Athlete’s foot infection may be combined with a bacterial infection which will be marked by a significant foot odour, a hydrocortisone cream may be recommended that we have available in our clinic. Your podiatrist will inform you on how to use it, and what extra measures you can be taking to treat your infection promptly and effectively - such as anti-fungal aerosols to be used on your shoes, or antifungal washing powder for your towels, bath mats and sheets.
Another thing that our podiatrists here at The Feet People do is check for any signs that the fungal infection has spread to your toenails and started a fungal nail infection. Fungal nail infections are notoriously stubborn and difficult to treat, which is where catching them early can go a long way in helping you nip it in the bud and stop the infection from spreading to others in your family.
Keep Your Feet Fungus-Free
If you’re unsure whether you have a fungal infection, or have noticed some signs that you’ve been hoping may go away on their own but they’re not budging, book an appointment with our experienced podiatrists in our Brisbane CBD or Newmarket clinics.
Book your appointment with our podiatrists online or call us on 1300 993 338