Athlete’s foot

Most people have heard of Athlete’s foot. It’s a fungal infection of the skin that can lead to intense itching, cracked, blistered or peeling areas of skin, redness and scaling. Large painful fissures can also develop and the condition can spread across all five toes - and sometimes even to the soles of the feet.  

Athlete’s foot is caused by a number of fungus types , often picked up from someone else in communal areas such as pools, showers and changing rooms. Athlete’s foot can also be passed on directly from person to person contact.

If left untreated, Athlete’s foot can spread to the toenails causing thickening and yellowing. This can be hard to treat. Fungal infections are also highly contagious and can spread to anywhere on the skin – including the scalp, hands and even the groin. The risk of this is heightened if you use the same towel for your feet as for the rest of your body.  

Treatments depend on the type of Athlete’s foot you have. If the condition occurs on a dry area such as the heel, you can moisturise with an anti-fungal cream or spray, sometimes combined with a steroid cream. These are all available from a pharmacist. If skin conditions are moist, you should use a different treatment  - wash the feet in cold water (hot water only makes feet fungus-friendly) then dry them thoroughly after washing, preferably with a separate towel or even kitchen roll. It’s important to dab your feet dry rather than rub them, as rubbing tends to abrade any healing skin. A spirit-based preparation,  such as surgical spirit, can help (it’s cooling, soothing and antiseptic). This may sting a little but will evaporate the moisture and allow the skin to heal.

In severe cases, an anti-fungal tablet may be prescribed. However, tablets are not suitable for everyone (for example, pregnant women) , so always check with your pharmacist.  

Athlete's foot can usually be prevented by:

  • Not walking barefoot, particularly in public areas.
  • Reducing foot perspiration by using talcum powder.
  • Wearing light and airy shoes.
  • Wearing socks that keep your feet dry, and changing them frequently .