What Warm Weather Hazards Await Your Feet?

During the warm weather a lot of us look forward to enjoying the outdoors. We’ll cheerfully sport bare feet when we can.

But the freedom and comfort of bare feet comes with a caution for you and your family. Bare feet can leave you vulnerable to athlete’s foot.

What’s Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is a fungus (a microorganism called tinea pedis) that grows on the feet. It’s commonly found in the spaces between the toes, but can spread to other parts of the foot or even areas on your body.

It’s important to know that anyone — including children — can get athlete’s foot. It’s only named that because athletes are routinely exposed to environments where the fungus can live and spread. You don’t need to be an athlete to get this annoying fungus.

How Does Athlete’s Foot Start?

It’s pretty easy to get athlete’s foot. Only two things need to happen to get it started:

  • Expose your bare feet to the athlete’s foot fungus. You can do that by being barefoot in warm, damp places such as showers, swimming pools or locker rooms. If someone in your family has athlete’s foot, you can pickup the fungus from them.
  • Promote the growth and spread of the fungus by giving it a good home — a warm, damp place such as sweaty sneakers.

If you touch the fungus, your fingers can transport the fungus to other body areas, such as the groin or underarms, so washing hands carefully after contacting an area affected by the fungus is important.

What Are the Signs of Athlete’s Foot?

With athlete’s foot, you may notice:

  • Red, itchy skin on the feet.
  • Burning, cracked and scaly skin.
  • A cheesy, unpleasant smelling substance between the toes.
  • Bumps or blisters on the feet.

How Can You Avoid Athlete’s Foot?

  • Wear sandals or flip-flops around pools, public showers, locker rooms and gyms to avoid contacting the fungus (the fungus can be spread at home, too).
  • Keep your feet clean, dry and cool. After washing, dry carefully, especially between the toes.
  • Wear clean, dry socks. Change socks every day or when they get damp.
  • Don’t share towels or footwear.
  • Keep your toenails clean and clipped short.
  • Avoid wearing tight or synthetic footwear that doesn’t allow your feet to “breathe.”
  • Allow your feet to breathe by occasionally going barefoot at home.
  • Keep your bathroom and shower surfaces clean.

What Are Athlete’s Foot Treatments?

Treatments include over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams. The creams may include medicines such as miconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine or tolnaftate.

For cases that don’t respond to OTC treatments, see your health care professional or a podiatrist to discuss additional treatment options. Your provider may do a test called a KOH exam or take a skin culture or skin biopsy to check for fungus or yeast. The test will help in choosing the best treatment.

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Meet the Author

Elizabeth Vissat, DPM, is a podiatrist at Aurora St. Luke's South Shore Medical Office Building in Cudahy, WI. 

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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