How to treat Athlete's Foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that often presents itself on your feet and between your toes. Most athlete’s foot is easily diagnosable simply by looking at the infected area, as it might look like dry skin or dermatitis. Your doctor might be able to diagnose athlete’s foot just by looking at your foot, or they might need to test a skin scraping in the lab.

Once you’ve determined that you have this specific skin condition, treating athlete’s foot is simple. There are both home remedies to try and over-the-counter medications. Athlete’s foot can come back, so it’s important you take precautions to prevent it from coming back in the long run. 

Treatment For Athlete’s Foot

There are plenty of athlete’s foot treatments that you can buy over the counter which you can administer yourself. However, not all fungal infections respond to these treatments so you might need a prescription-strength cream or ointment. These will include active ingredients such as clotrimazole, econazole, or ciclopirox. 

While these treatments will kill the majority of fungus, it’s possible for the infection to spread deeper into the skin. This is considered a more serious infection and can be treated by antifungal pills, like terbinafine and itraconazole. Some doctors will prescribe both a topical cream and a medication to treat the infection from all sides. 

Treating Athlete’s Foot at Home

While waiting for your doctor’s appointment, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your symptoms or avoid a recurrence. 

Clean and Dry Your Feet Thoroughly

Always wash your feet twice a day if you’re prone to athlete’s foot, and use a clean towel to dry the skin while paying attention to the spaces between your toes. These are the warmest areas of your feet where moisture tends to get trapped, making it a popular breeding ground for athlete’s foot fungi. 

Use an Anti-Fungal Treatment

Once your feet are dry, use an antifungal treatment that you can buy from your local pharmacy. Some of the most popular treatments include terbinafine and clotrimazole, and they come in a range of consistencies - ointments, creams, lotions, sprays, and powders. Apply the product how the manufacturer’s instructions tell you to, and results should be seen between two and four weeks. 

Change Your Socks

Change your socks as frequently as you need to to make sure your feet remain dry. Most people will only need to change their socks around once a day, but active people might need to change them more frequently. 

Keep Your Footwear Light and Well-Ventilated

Wear shoes that are lightweight and breathable enough to keep your feet as cool as possible throughout the day. This means keeping away from synthetic fabrics such as vinyl and rubber shoes. Whenever possible, wear open-toed sandals to keep your feet well-ventilated and surrounded by cool air. 

Many people who often suffer from athlete’s foot also have two pairs of primary shoes so they can alternate between days. This gives your shoes enough time to dry thoroughly between uses, preventing your feet from being kept in warm, humid areas multiple days in a row. 

Protect Your Feet

Your feet should be protected at all times when you’re walking barefoot, whether it’s around public pools, locker rooms, or showers. Wear waterproof shoes and sandals to prevent yourself from picking up any fungal infection that other visitors may be carrying. Wearing foot protection in these warm, wet environments can also prevent you from passing your own athlete’s foot onto others, which is always a nice thing to do. 

Try Not to Scratch

Athlete’s foot can be itchy and irritated, but scratching is one of the worst things you can do. This can spread the fungal infection to other areas of your foot, and it can increase the risk of spreading it to others. To avoid scratching, you need to soothe the infection. One of the best ways to do this is soaking your feet in cool water. Don’t forget to dry them thoroughly with a clean towel afterwards, though!

Don’t Share Shoes, Socks, or Towels

Athlete’s foot is very contagious and can spread very quickly. It doesn’t just have to be spread by skin-to-skin contact, either, as you can pass it on through sharing socks, shoes, and towels. It can even be spread through walking on the same floor as others, so make sure you’re keeping everything clean while you’re treating the infection. You might choose to wear sandals around your house while waiting for treatment to clear the infection up. 

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