Wouldn’t it be great if “athlete’s foot” meant you were a really great competitor? Sadly, that’s not the case. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection, which means if you’ve got it, your feet have become home to thousands of tiny organisms that have decided to set up shop between your toes and along the bottom of your foot. It sounds pretty disgusting, but it’s actually easily treatable with antifungal medications. Even better, you can prevent athlete’s foot infections in many cases simply by observing a few simple guidelines.
Know where it grows
Like other types of fungi, the organisms that cause athlete’s foot love warm, moist areas. Public pools, the gym locker room, the shower at your health club, the deck around that oh-so-relaxing hot tub — these are all prime areas where fungi just love to hang out. You’re most likely to find colonies of fungi here when someone who has an infection walks through before you and leaves a trail of fungi behind. But some types of fungi that cause athlete’s foot (there are several types) also occur naturally in the soil, which means there’s a chance (albeit relatively small) you could pick up a fungal infection if you romp barefoot through damp flowerbeds, for instance. Knowing where the fungi are more likely to congregate, you can take precautions when you’re walking in those areas. Shower shoes and flip-flops provide good barriers between your feet and the offending fungi, so carry an extra pair in your gym bag or when you travel (especially if you’re staying in a hostel, campground, or anywhere a shower is shared).
Keep those tootsies clean and dry
Another way to prevent infections is to bathe your feet every day, and when you shower, get in between your toes with soap and water. Not only can regular foot baths get rid of fungi before they have a chance to colonize inside your skin, but it also gives you a chance to inspect your toes and feet for early signs of infection. When you’re done washing your feet, spend extra time making sure they’ve completely dried off afterward. That includes drying between all your toes. You should also make sure your socks stay dry, If your feet sweat a lot or if you’re out hiking in an area where your feet might get wet, carry along an extra pair of socks (or two) and change your socks any time you notice even a bit of dampness.
Don’t share shoes
Or socks, either. Even the cleanest friend can get athlete’s foot; it’s not a matter of having poor hygiene. But once an infection is present, it’s extremely easy to transfer the fungal spores into shoes, socks, and slippers. And that means if you share your friend’s footwear, those fungi could decide to jump ship and move in on your feet, too. “But what if I have my own socks? Is it OK to share in that case?” No, you can still get an infection. And to make sure your own shoes and socks don’t become home to fungi, wash your socks after every wear and consider getting an antifungal spray to treat your shoes periodically, especially if your feet have been sweating.
One more thing to know about athlete’s foot: Some people are more likely to develop infections than others. Specifically, people who have weakened immune systems are far more likely to become infected simply because their bodies don’t fight off pathogens as well as a person with a strong immune system. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop infections, primarily because diabetes interferes with circulation, which plays a really important role in healing. Infections can also be more common if you’ve got allergies or eczema. And finally, if you have family members who have a lot of fungal infections, you might be more susceptible, too.
Don’t let athlete’s foot go untreated
While you might be able to treat a very mild case of athlete’s foot with over-the-counter products, some cases can be stubborn to resolve. At Ankle & Foot Associates LLC, we treat athlete’s foot using the most advanced products and treatments designed to get rid of the fungus and relieve your symptoms. If you’ve got stubborn or recurrent athlete’s foot infections, book an appointment online today.