Let’s Discuss: Athlete’s Foot: Common Complaint of Champions

Athlete’s foot is a common ailment of not only men, but also women and children. Contrary to popular believe you don’t need to be sports oriented or even very active to contract athlete’s foot. The first thing I’m going to say, however, before I even begin is that before treating yourself or your children for common athlete’s foot, make sure that is what you/they have. Athlete’s foot has a sudden onset and is characterized by inflamed, itchy, burning sensation, rash, cracked skin (especially underneath and between toes), and small oozing blisters. It is NOT athlete’s foot and requires more in-depth investigation and diagnosis if the child is under 5 years of age, the entire foot is red, swollen, blistered, oozing, and painful instead of just a burning- itchy sensation, or if the rash/fungus appears on the top of the foot instead of the bottom.

Before I go into telling you how to deal with athlete’s foot after you contract it. I want to discuss how to prevent getting the fungus in the first place. As you already know fungus growth prefers a warm moist condition to grow. Since this organism is found on the feet normally, you don’t want to give it optimum conditions in which to grow and spread. A sweaty gym shoe is a perfect example. Always wear clean dry socks every day. Change your socks anytime they become moist with sweat for example after going to the gym, exercising, or running. If you tend to have feet that perspire heavily normally, always keep a dry clean pair with you at the job, in your purse, or vehicle so you can keep your feet dry. Never wear shoes without socks (except sandals) and frequently wash and dry your feet thoroughly, paying special attention to areas between and under toes, especially if you are prone to athlete’s feet. Don’t buy shoes without proper ventilation holes to help keep your feet dry, such as tennis shoes, and work boots. Always wear protective foot covering when using public showers. Do not walk into public restrooms, showers, or any other moist humid atmospheres, where athlete’s fungus and bacteria thrive, barefoot. Air out and dry the inside of your shoes when not wearing them, preferably by leaving them outside (the sun which will effectively kill fungus or bacteria and dry them more thoroughly). Loosen the laces and pull the tongue as far out and away from the shoe so you get good drying and penetration for air circulation. Apply antifungal cream and change into clean dry socks after precipitating in events where you may have increased your changes of fungal growth. Never wear the same socks more than one day. When a fungal infection is not present depending on your lifestyle and foot perspiration you should apply cream anywhere from once a day to weekly, routinely to decrease your chance of having another acute attack.

How to treat athlete’s foot once you have contracted it:

Don’t scratch. You can turn a relatively harmless condition, albeit uncomfortable one, into a full-blown bacterial infection requiring medical attention.

Baby your feet during an acute attack. If your feet are sore, oozing, and /or swollen, you need to keep them up, uncovered, and rested. It may even mean you have to take a sick day or ignore some housekeeping tasks to do so but you don’t want to risk a bacterial infection developing on top of the athlete’s foot. A bacterial infection will cause you feet to have larger blister type or open sores, more oozing, feel hot to the touch, and the whole foot will be swollen and red, instead of small rash-type blisters on the bottom of your foot.

Soak your feet in either Epsom salts or a mixture of 2tsp table salt/pint of water to help dry, lessen foot perspiration, and create an hostile environment for the fungi to grow and multiply. It also softens your skin so that antifungal medications will penetrate more easily and deeply to act more effectively. You soak your feet in this solution 5-10 minutes before drying your feet thoroughly, then apply medicated cream. You can repeat this process until the athlete’s foot clears up. I have also heard of soaking your feet in Massengil douche powder solution instead of salt to rid yourself of very hard to cure fungus then sprinkle the powder in boots or shoes. Most of the nurses I worked with found that it was better not to tell their sons or husbands what product they were using to ensure better compliance.

Medication for the fungus… there are many products on the market for athlete’s foot. Tried and true are the over the counter creams containing either miconazole nitrate (Micotin), tolnaftate (Tinactin), or Desenex. Generic products with miconazole or tolnaftate as their active ingredient work just as well also. If you have frequent attacks change your cream from one to another that may work better for you. Apply the medication 2-3 times daily and rub it gently, being sure that you have covered the whole are. You need to continue to treat the affected area for 2 weeks after it appears to have cleared up to prevent it from reappearing. Also make sure you have it well applied under and between the toes as well as the other areas.

After the acute phase of the infection is over you need to be sure and scrub away all the dead skin since it still has living fungus in it. Use a bristled scrub brush and a toothbrush (labeled only for this purpose that will be thrown out once the fungus has completely cleared and replaced by new labeled brush) for between and underneath your toes. A smaller child’s brush works the best. Be sure to rinse your feet, toes, and the shower/tub well to avoid re-infecting yourself or others. It’s also good to use a tub or shower disinfectant after each use while you have the fungus present.

Be sure to clean under your toenails when cleaning your feet. Don’t use a metal file since it can cause niches for the fungus to hide. Use a wooden match, slightly blunted toothpick, or an orange stick found in manicure kits.

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