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Ditch the Itch: Treating Athlete’s Foot

man laying on grass with bare feet

pepifoto/iStock

In this Article:

  • Learn how to spot athlete’s foot.
  • Keep your feet dry and clean to avoid fungal infections.
  • Always wear shoes or flip-flops in the locker room.

You’ve spent drill weekend breaking a sweat to crush your PT and now your feet are itching and burning. If that itching comes with blistering or flaky skin then that might be a sign of athlete’s foot.

The 411 on Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal skin infection. Anyone is at risk of getting athlete’s foot, not just athletes! Men are more likely to get it than women, but living in a warm, damp climate or spending a lot of time in water can make you even more susceptible.

This fungal infection is called tinea, and it grows in warm, damp places on the skin and nails. When fungus attacks these areas, the protective skin barrier is invaded by bacteria.You can spot athlete’s foot on the soles or sides of your feet, in between your toes, or on your toenails as:

  • Scaly, flaky, red, or itchy patches
  • Peeling skin
  • Blisters or rashes
  • Cracking dry skin
  • Thick and white or yellow toenails

Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread to another person by:

  • Having direct skin-to-skin contact with the infected area
  • Sharing or touching used towels
  • Walking barefoot in a locker room, in public showers, or near swimming pools
  • Wearing socks or shoes that have been worn by others (think bowling alley)

How to Stop the Itch

If not treated properly and promptly, athlete’s foot can be very stubborn. Most cases can be treated with over-the-counter products such as lotions, creams, powders, bath washes, or sprays. With daily treatment, athlete’s foot will usually clear in one to two weeks.

You don’t necessarily need to see a dermatologist unless athlete’s foot doesn’t go away or keeps coming back. In severe cases, you will need to see your doctor for a prescription for oral antibiotics or stronger topical medicines. Toenail fungus often requires prolonged oral treatment—three to four months—to get rid of the thick, yellow nails. Unfortunately, if you have a history of getting fungal infections like athlete’s foot, it may come back.

If you have an autoimmune disease or are diabetic, be sure to consult with your physician before attempting to treat athlete’s foot on your own. You are at a higher risk of getting a severe bacterial infection or having other health complications if you don’t seek treatment.
 

Staying One Step Ahead

To prevent athlete’s foot from starting or coming back, here are some tips:

  • After a shower or intense sweating, dry off completely, making sure to wipe your feet last to keep from spreading infection.
  • Wear breathable clothing, like cotton socks, to allow moisture to escape.
  • Take off your shoes and socks when you get home so that your feet can breathe.
  • Wash your clothes and towels after each use.
  • Don’t ever go barefoot in locker rooms.

By keeping your feet clean and as dry as possible, you will be able to protect them from athlete’s foot in the future.

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