Athletes Foot

Is the skin between your toes peeling? Do your feet have a rather whiffy aroma? If so, you may well have athletes foot.

Although the experts are divided as to whether athletes foot (Tinea pedis) is worse during the heat of summer - or the cold winter months when your feet are couped up in shoes all day - either way this condition can spread like wildfire through your household unless treated immediately.

Athlete’s foot is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophyte fungi that grow in warm moist environments and can cause infection in the skin. It spreads easily through direct skin-to-skin contact or indirectly through contact with infected surfaces – like sharing towels, shoes and bath mats. It can also be caught by walking barefoot in warm damp areas like communal showers, gyms, swimming pools or changing rooms. Secondary infection can occur if skin is split, bleeding, or blistered.

Athlete’s foot commonly affects the skin between the toes – particularly between the fourth and small toe. The skin may appear soft, white and peeling but can also be red, itchy and scaly.  It can also sometimes spread to the sole of the foot where it appears dry, cracked and scaly. Other symptoms include itching, burning, stinging, small blisters, fissures (splitting) and bleeding.

The good news is that athletes foot is easily treated by using creams and powders.

Antifungal creams work by preventing fungi from multiplying (fungi-static), or by killing fungi directly (fungi-cidal). Fungi-static antifungal creams need to be applied for approximately two weeks after the infection has cleared, while fungi-cidal antifungal creams can be stopped once the infection has cleared.

Antifungal powders are good for dusting in shoes or socks to kill residual fungal spores and prevent reoccurrence, while corticosteroid creams help reduce itch and inflammation. Corticosteroid creams must be applied sparingly and used strictly according to product recommendations and the advice from your community pharmacist.

It is a good idea to talk to your community pharmacist for advice on using these products. Some products contain both an antifungal and a corticosteroid so you will need to ensure treatment is not duplicated.

Your community pharmacist can also advise you on making lifestyle changes so that you can minimise the risk of getting athletes foot in the future.