If you have itchy, scaly skin on your feet, it could be an athlete's foot infection. Athlete's foot is quite common, affecting up to 25% of Americans at any given time. Though it's usually easily treated with an antifungal cream, its prevalence can lead to recurring infections. Fortunately, by putting a little extra effort into your foot hygiene, you can significantly reduce your risk of picking up an uncomfortable athlete's foot infection.
Here at City Podiatry, our team of expert podiatrists treat many patients who have athlete's foot. It's a fungal infection that thrives in warm, moist, and dark environments — like the spaces between your toes. The infection gets its name because athletes are likely to wear sweaty socks or walk barefoot in shared locker rooms or swimming facilities, but don't be fooled by the name. Anyone can pick up athlete's foot.
Preventing athlete's foot
Practicing proper hygiene is critical to preventing athlete's foot. Here are our top tips for protecting your feet and avoiding infection.
Flip flops and shower shoes
If you use public pools, shared showers, or locker rooms, always, and we mean always, wear flip flops or shower shoes to put a barrier between you and the floor. These environments are perfect breeding grounds for the fungus that causes athlete's foot. Also, even though you can't do anything about what other people do with their feet, you can protect yours from other people's bad habits.
Whether or not you devote time to exercise, you should thoroughly wash your feet every day. After washing, take care to dry your feet thoroughly before putting on clean socks. If you share living space with someone who has athlete's foot, don't share linens, shoes, or towels. Both of you should always wear shoes in shared spaces to prevent the fungus from spreading.
Even if you aren’t spending time barefoot in public pools or locker rooms, you need to keep your feet dry. Athlete's foot fungus thrives in warm, moist environments like those created around your toes when you wear sweaty socks all day. If you have particularly sweaty feet, you should change your socks during the day, taking time to clean and dry your feet before putting on the fresh socks. If possible, you should also alternate the shoes you wear every day to give each pair time to dry and air out before you wear them again.
Whenever possible, wear socks and shoes made of natural materials or technical fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin. Everything you can do to keep your feet cool and dry helps prevent athlete's foot.
What if it's too late and I already have athlete's foot?
If you already have dry, flaky, itchy skin on your feet, it's critical to start treatment for athlete's foot as soon as possible. When left untreated, you increase your risk of more dangerous infections such as cellulitis, sepsis, and abscesses. Your risk is even higher if you have a health condition like diabetes or venous insufficiency. Fortunately, our doctors can usually treat athlete's foot with a topical antifungal treatment that you combine with increased foot hygiene at home.
We hope our athlete's foot prevention tips help you stay infection-free, but if you need expert podiatry care for athlete's foot or other foot and ankle issues, give us a call, or make an appointment online.