What’s that Rash: Athlete’s Foot

If you’ve ever gone to a public locker room, gym, swimming pool, or sports club, you’ve probably been advised at some point to wear flip flops or shower shoes. There’s a good reason for that: protecting yourself from athlete’s foot.

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot goes by the formal name of tinea pedis. It’s a skin rash on the foot caused by a fungal infection.

Athlete’s foot got its name because the fungus that causes it thrives in the same areas athletes often are, like locker rooms, public showers, and swimming pools. But you don’t have to be Michael Phelps… anyone can get it — for example, by walking barefoot on a floor that is contaminated with the fungus, or using a damp towel that has the fungus on it.

What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?

Symptoms of athlete’s foot are similar to that of any other rash, just on the foot. (It’s worth noting, however, that the rash can be spread to other parts of the body by touch.) The rash may itch or burn. It can cause redness, cracking, and peeling of the skin. In some cases, it may cause painful blisters.

Athlete’s foot can affect any area of the foot — including soles, heels, between the toes, and the backs of the feet.

Can I prevent athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is highly contagious. The best way to prevent athlete’s foot is to avoid walking barefoot in warm, damp areas where the fungus may be. Always wear sandals in public facilities.

Other preventative measures you want to take are:

  • Keep your toenails clipped short;
  • Wash your feet daily and dry them well;
  • Wear lightweight shoes and socks instead of heavier footwear;
  • Don’t share towels, socks, or shoes with others;
  • Disinfect shared areas in the home if a family member has athlete’s foot.

What cures athlete’s foot?

Once contracted, the fungus continues to thrive in damp, warm environments. In other words, your hot, sweaty feet enclosed in snug-fitting shoes are its heaven. In this case, you want to focus on keeping your feet dry.

  • Change socks if your feet are sweating.
  • Wear moisture-wicking socks to draw moisture away from your feet.
  • Use a hair dryer and talcum powder to get and keep your feet dry, especially the area between the toes.
  • Wear open shoes in warmer weather to allow for adequate air circulation.

The rash can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams, or you can try home remedies such as:

  • Applying tea tree oil, diluted in a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil;
  • Dipping your feet in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and iodine;
  • Soaking your feet in a mixture of baking soda and warm water.

When should I see a doctor for athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot can be chalked up to just a minor annoyance for a few weeks. However, in some cases, you should see a doctor.

If your rash refuses go away or it infects the toenails, a doctor can help.

If the rash develops into painful or oozing blisters or open sores, see a doctor.

Serious infections may need to be treated with prescription medication that only a doctor can prescribe.

Special care is needed for people with diabetes. Since the skin of the foot is cracked and peeling, it becomes more susceptible to bacterial infections that can cause serious complications for people with diabetes. See your doctor if you have diabetes and you contract athlete’s foot.

Athletes and non-athletes are welcome here!

Here at In and Out Express Care, we have treated our fair share of elite athletes — along with athlete’s foot and other rashes. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a top athlete in order to see our friendly and knowledgeable urgent care doctors. Stop by one of our four urgent care clinics in Hampton Roads so we can help you or your family feel better fast!