Out of the blue, my right foot began to feel itchy and slightly swollen in the webbing between my toes. I had never experienced this before so I went to the local clinic to have them take a look. “Athlete’s foot,” the doctor emphatically exclaimed and told me some names of some over-the-counter fungal creams to buy.
Concerned that I might have given this problem to a recent house guest who had used my shower, I called our friend Michael to alert him. “Oh, I should have told you--I have athlete’s foot,” Michael chuckled, “I probably gave it to you.” I rolled my eyes at the other end of the phone and said, “Thanks a lot Michael!”
Incredibly, up to 70% of the population will have athlete’s foot sometime in their lives. Athlete’s foot is caused by fungus called tinea pedis that thrives on warm, moist surfaces. It can appear like red, peeling skin sometimes with dry flakes either on the soles of the feet (moccasin type), between the toes especially the 4th or 5th webspace (interdigital type) or less commonly as blisters (inflammatory type).
The infection is spread by direct contact with contaminated surfaces and may spread to toenails as well. People who are elderly, have diabetes or have impaired immunity are particularly susceptible.
If the case is mild, an over-the-counter or prescription cream may be tried. If the athlete’s foot is persistent and recurrent then oral anti-fungals may be necessary for 2-6 months. It is important to not stop treatment early even if symptoms have improved as it is easy to for re-infection to occur. Fungal infections can be extremely hard to get rid of and keep at bay.
1. Wash you feet with soap and water, especially after exercising, and make sure that they are totally dry before putting on shoes and socks. Disinfect the floor of the shower to prevent spreading athlete’s foot to others.
2. Do not wear other people’s shoes. If you must wear shoes others have worn such as bowling shoes, never wear them without socks. Consider spraying them with a disinfectant yourself if you are not sure the shoes have been treated with an FDA approved disinfectant between uses.
3. Never walk barefoot in public pool or gym bathrooms. Wear water shoes or sandals.
4. If you are susceptible to athlete’s foot, sprinkle anti-fungal powder in your shoes after wearing and rotate among different shoes each day so they each have a change to really dry out after wearing. Some people use anti-perspirant on their feet if they have more severe problems with sweaty feet.
Next time my friend Michael comes to stay I’ll be ready with disinfectant to scrub the bottom of the shower after he uses it. Unless of course, I can talk him into putting on a pair of water shoes before he steps in.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles