It’s summer, so lose the big shoes and give me the thin sandals! Or better yet, barefoot, and then off to the outdoor pool. But be careful: If you’re not careful, you’ll get athlete’s foot very quickly. To prevent this from happening to you, we will explain how you can best protect yourself from an infection and what you can do if the fungus has already infected you.
What is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, is caused by dermatophytes, i.e. filamentous fungi that cause diseases on the skin. “Athlete’s foot is caused by the same pathogen as nail fungus, therefore one infection can cause the other”, explains Dr. Esther Coors, dermatologist at the Dermatological Centre in Hamburg.
The fungus is annoying, but not dangerous in itself. Nevertheless, you should not take it lightly. Firstly, the infection is highly contagious and very persistent. Treatment can last for several weeks or even up to a year. “In addition, the small cracks in the skin caused by athlete’s foot are an entry point for bacteria,” warns Coors. If these lead to so-called erysipelas in the foot or even the lower leg, things get serious.
By which symptoms can you recognize athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is easy to recognize. If you have the following problems with your feet, you should therefore, according to Coors, see a doctor quickly:
- Softened, whitish or cracked skin, especially between the toes
- blisters or nodules on the sole or sides of the foot
- scaly patches on the foot
- tingling, itching, burning, or pain in the foot
- One hardly feels nail fungus, but one sees changes in the color or the nail thickness
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Carpets are often covered with athlete’s foot spores, so be careful when walking barefoot, for example in hotels © Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com
Where do most fungal spores lurk?
Wherever people walk barefoot, you can get infected. “About 20 percent of all adults in Germany have athlete’s foot at this moment,” says Coors. Particularly risky places are swimming pools and saunas because it’s damp there too. But the communal shower or changing room in the gym can also give you an infection, as can the carpet in a hotel room. Even if you are barefoot in the apartment of a friend who has a hidden athlete’s foot infection, you can get infected.
You should also be especially careful if you have diabetes or an immune deficiency or are generally susceptible to different infections.
How can one prevent a foot fungus infection?
Fortunately, you can do a lot to keep this annoying fungus away from your body, a meticulous foot hygiene is the be-all and end-all here. You should also prevent your feet from being exposed to moisture for too long. After all, a moist environment is the ideal breeding ground for any infection and softens the skin so that the spores can penetrate better. Coors mentions the following tips to protect yourself against athlete’s foot:
1. wear flip-flops or bathing shoes at the above-mentioned risk locations.
2. dry your feet thoroughly, especially between your toes!
3. wear cotton socks and wash them at least 60 degrees.
4. if you sweat a lot on your feet, a foot powder can help to keep them dry
5. if you are travelling for long periods with your shoes closed, change your socks regularly.
7. take care, especially with your sports shoes, that the sweat from your workout can evaporate well. Take them out of your sports bag as soon as you get home and let them dry for about a day.
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8. if you tend to have dry, chapped skin, apply cream to your feet regularly. If the skin is cracked, the fungus has an easy time of it.
9. You should also be careful with minor injuries. Make sure that the wound is always clean and cover it with a plaster or bandage if possible.
10. Make sure that your toenails are healthy. Nails that are too short or brittle can promote an infection with nail fungus.
11. if you have thickened or dry calluses on your feet, remove them carefully and then apply a good amount of cream to the areas so that you do not have cracks in the skin.
12. you can disinfect your shoes and feet with a special spray or creams to kill the spores You can get them at the pharmacy.
If you take a few precautions, walking barefoot is wonderful and healthy © plusONE / Shutterstock.com
How to treat athlete’s foot?
In spite of all the precautions you took, it did get you, didn’t it? Then don’t panic, but be prepared for several weeks of treatment. Discipline and patience are required here, otherwise invisible fungal spores can quickly lead to a relapse. “In any case, you should go to the doctor quickly so that the infection does not spread,” advises Coors. Because the faster the athlete’s foot is treated, the faster it is gone again. The doctor can prescribe creams or nail polishes that kill the fungus.
Tablets are only used in the case of more severe infestation, as they have strong side effects. Especially in pregnancy or with children, the treatment options are therefore limited. However, the fungus itself is not dangerous.
” Also wash all textiles that come into contact with your feet at a minimum of 60 degrees or a special fungicidal detergent. You should disinfect shoes with a spray,” says Coors.
You should also pay even more attention to your foot hygiene and take our tips for prevention into account.
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And now it says: Persevere, the treatment of athlete’s foot can take 3 to 4 weeks, that of nail mycosis up to one year. It is important that you continue the therapy as long as the doctor has prescribed it, even if you do not notice any more of the fungus. If not all spores are completely destroyed, the infection can come back very quickly.
Which home remedies are effective against athlete’s foot?
“You can only get a firm grip on the fungus with medication from a doctor,” explains Coors. Nevertheless, there are some home remedies that can help the cure. We have collected the most effective ones for you, which you can also use preventively:
- Cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar kills the fungal spores and relieves itching. Simply rub your feet with the vinegar or bathe your feet for 10 to 30 minutes. Dilute the vinegar with water in a ratio of 1:1 at most. Do not use if you have injuries or sensitive skin!
Put salt in warm water (8 teaspoons per litre) and bathe your feet for 5 to 10 minutes. This will also prevent a new infection. Also be careful with injuries to the foot.
Honey also has an antibacterial effect and leads to a faster regeneration of the skin. Apply a little honey to the affected areas regularly.
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Is athlete’s foot the same as nail fungus?
Athlete’s foot affects the skin, nail fungus, as the name suggests, the toenails, and in rare cases also the fingernails. However, the pathogen is the same, so it is possible that athlete’s foot, if not completely healed, infects the adjacent nail. Therefore you must act quickly to prevent the infection from spreading. Certain nail polishes, but also mouthwash or tea tree oil can fight nail fungus. In any case, you should see your doctor to prevent the infection from spreading.
To protect yourself from nail fungus, the same rules apply as for athlete’s foot. You can recognize nail fungus mainly by the fact that the affected toenail discolours or becomes stained, brittle and cracked, thickens or itches.
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Foot fungus is annoying and persistent. So do your best to protect yourself from it. With a little caution and above all with dry feet, you are definitely on the safe side. In any case, if you notice symptoms in yourself, you should act quickly. Because the earlier the fungus is fought, the faster the healing process will be successful.