It is also called tinea pedis. Non "athletic" individuals become more susceptible to developing athlete's foot in the summer months because the fungus thrives in warm, moist environments. Having said that, athlete's foot is neither exclusive to summertime, nor athletes. Athlete's foot can be spread – it is contagious – however it more often occurs in predisposed individuals. Sweaty socks, steam rooms, public showers, and locker rooms all make great living environments for fungi. So, what makes you predisposed? This isn't so clear, but once you've had athlete's foot, you are more likely to have it again in the future.
Athlete's foot can cause mild to major itching, burning, blisters, and cracking on the soles of the feet, between the toes, and heels. If you don't treat it properly, you can get a bacterial infection on top of the fungal infection. To get after the fungus you have a few choices. You can go the conventional route with topical antifungal agents like Desitin, Mycelex or Tinactin. You need to be very consistent and apply them twice daily for up to a month. Fungal infections are generally pretty difficult to treat and tend to recur. For oozing or cracked skin, Burow's solution is recommended and is also available over the counter. If you are looking for a more herbal approach, there are a few choices.
Tea tree oil is probably the most popular choice when it comes to treating athlete's foot. Tea tree oil is useful to reduce itching and improve healing. Since the essential oil is quite strong and may likely sting, dilute 10 to 15 drops of the oil into a quart of warm water and soak your feet in the mixture for about 10 minutes twice daily. Dry your feet thoroughly after each soak and apply a fine powder such as bentonite clay to keep the area dry. Do not use cornstarch-based powders. Thuja oil is another herbal antifungal agent. If you can find a homeopathic tincture of thuja, you can rub it directly into the infected area. Other herbs to consider are calendula and aloe vera. Both of these herbs can be soothing and useful when the skin is really dry.
The best medicine in the case of athlete's foot is going to be preventative. If you are prone to the fungal outbreak then supplementing the diet with Lactobacillus acidophilus will help provide probiotics, which will help fight the fungus and keep infections under control. A good multivitamin/mineral is important to help assure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs. You need to keep sugary foods, soda's and baked goods and processed foods to a minimum as these tend to "feed" the fungus. Drink plenty of fresh water and eat lots of vegetables. This will also help keep your immune system strong so you are less susceptible to the fungus.
Keep your feet as dry as possible. You can now buy wicking socks (usually at athletic stores) to help keep moisture away from your feet. Keep your feet clean and wash between your toes and dry them well after each shower. You should wear some kind of protective sandal or shower shoe when you are in public venues such as the gym or fitness club or public swimming pools. Wash your socks after each use and wash them well in hot water. Wear shoes that are slightly roomy and allow your feet to breath.
Remember to check in with your family doctor if you don't begin to see improvement after a week or if you see any signs of bacterial infection, which include fever, increased pain and swelling, blisters that are leaking pus or if the infection looks like it's spreading. Also, if you have diabetes or another disease that disrupts your circulation, you should see your doctor right away if think you have athlete's foot. Such conditions put you more at risk for developing bacterial infections.
(Copyright KUSA*TV, All Rights Reserved)