Athlete's foot (also known as tinea) is characterised by the symptoms below.
- Itching and irritation between the toes
- Peeling and cracking of the skin in the area
- Rash and redness
- Dry, flaking skin on the soles of the feet
- Unpleasant foot odour
- In severe cases, the toenails become distorted, thick and white in colour
Athlete's foot is caused by a fungal infection which is easily transferred from person to person and is commonly picked up by using communal showers and toilets (such as at the gym or in a caravan park).
The condition is more likely to develop when the area between the toes is moist, such as occurs with excessive perspiration or from not properly drying the area. Certain types of plastic shoe, which do not allow the foot to breathe, can also contribute to the condition.
Bacterial infection may develop if the fungal infection is untreated.
Treat athlete's foot at the first sign of itchy feet or redness between your toes
Soak your infected feet in warm, salted water (1 tsp salt per cup) for 5 to 10 minutes every day. Dry your feet thoroughly (a fan or hair dryer is best). As long as the area is not blistered or cracked, remove flakes of dead skin with a soft brush before using any topical treatments. Tea tree oil may be effective to kill the fungus; for inflamed skin be sure to dilute the oil 15% in water, or try a tea tree oil-based powder Do not tear off flaking skin; you may break nearby healthy skin and spread the infection.
Recurrent infection with athlete's foot may indicate that your resistance needs a boost - try echinacea and garlic in combination with vitamin C
Keep the area around your feet clean and dry and change your socks or stockings daily. It is also a good idea to make sure you don't wear the same shoes day after day.
Wash your socks and towels in the hottest water possible (or boil them) to kill the infection. Anti-fungal washing liquids are also available to kill the infection in the wash.
- Wear a pair of thongs or sandals when using communal showers or changing rooms
- Never share shoes, socks, or towels
- Always clean the shower at home after use to avoid spreading the infection to others in the household. Avoid walking around the house barefoot, as this can also spread the infection
- Avoid shoes and socks made of synthetic (man-made) material such as nylon and rubber - these encourage your feet to perspire. Instead, choose cotton socks and leather shoes, and when possible wear open-toed shoes to expose your feet to the air
For more severe or persistent cases, or if the skin has split and become infected, consult your healthcare professional.