Straight, No Chaser: Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)

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Athlete’s foot is one of those topics that everyone seems to know a little about but not enough to really understand. If your level of knowledge is “scaly, itchy rash on the feet = go to the pharmacy,” you need to empower yourself with some Straight, No Chaser answers to these frequently asked questions about athlete’s foot.

What puts me at risk for athlete’s foot?

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  • If you frequently wear socks that are or become moist
  • If you frequently wear tight shoes
  • If you have diabetes, lupus, chronically take steroids or have another illness that lowers your immunity
  • If you’re male
  • If you’re with someone in the midst of a fungal infection and share bed sheets, carpeting, rugs, or shoes with them
  • If you’re barefoot while exposed in public areas such as showers, saunas or swimming pools

What causes athlete’s foot?

Tinea pedis (aka athlete’s foot) is a fungal infection. Tinea is the same family of fungi that produces the conditions known as jock itch and ringworm.

What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?

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Look for a dry, scaly rash that most often is noticed between your toes. It produces itching and burning. It can progress to include blisters and/or ulcers.

Is athlete’s foot contagious? How is it spread?

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Athlete’s foot is very contagious and is usually spread by floors, clothes, towels, bed sheets or rugs. Your hands can play a role in spreading it as well. Picking at the lesions with your hands can infect them and further spread the fungus to your groin or your nails.

What should I do to prevent athlete’s foot? 

Try these simple tips.

  • Wear clean socks that you change regularly or anytime they become wet.
  • Keep your feet dry. Regarding prevention, barefoot and dry is infinitely better than covering your feet with sweaty socks.
  • Avoid vinyl or rubber shoes, as these retard ventilation and promote fungal growth.
  • Don’t wear the same shoes every day. They need to dry out.
  • Don’t share shoes.
  • Wear shower shoes or waterproof sandals in public places.

When should I see a doctor? How can athlete’s foot be treated?

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Here are some principles to care for and treat athlete’s foot.

  • If you have diabetes or a lowered immunity, see a physician immediately upon onset of athlete’s foot.
  • If you have athlete’s foot and develop pronounced or prolonged redness, swelling, warmth, fever or drainage, you should see a physician as soon as possible.
  • If you have normal immunity, it is reasonable to try an over-the-counter medication; these come in lotions, ointments, powders or sprays.
  • If you have athlete’s foot resistant to self-help efforts after a few weeks, you should see a physician.

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