Walking around in bare feet, especially in a public place, may not be so safe after all. That's because a family of fungi called trichophyton flourishes in humid environments like gym and bathroom floors and around swimming pools. This well-known fungus is linked with a common condition called athlete's foot, so-named because of how common it is in athletes and people who hang out in gyms.
How do you know if you have this common condition?
People with athlete's foot develop red, irritated, peeling skin on their feet and between their toes and experience itching and burning. Unfortunately, athlete's foot is contagious, meaning you can spread it to someone else by sharing a towel with them or if they walk on a surface where you walked. If you scratch at the infected areas, the fungi can collect beneath your nails and you can transmit the fungi to surface that you touch or to other skin surfaces. Scratching can also lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
Anti-fungal medications are available to treat the symptoms of athlete's foot. Topical medications available without a prescription work well for mild cases. If you don't respond, a podiatrist may recommend prescription-strength topical antifungal medications or, in more severe cases, an anti-fungal medication you take by mouth. Always follow the directions and take the medication as prescribed. If you don't eradicate all the fungi, athlete's foot can easily return. Any perspiration makes your sock permeable, therefore we recommend also treating your shoe gear to kill any bacteria or fungus.
How can you prevent athlete's foot?
Wear cotton socks that "breathe" and avoid wearing tight shoes that allow moisture to build up. The fungi that cause athlete's foot thrive in a moist environment. If you use a public shower or the dressing room at a health club, slip on a pair of sandals so your feet don't directly touch the floor. Always dry your feet and between your toes thoroughly and apply talcum powder to keep your feet dry. What about footwear? Make sure the shoes and socks you put on are clean and dry. Avoid walking around public areas without shoes and socks.
If you have health issues that reduce your body's ability to fight off infection or diabetes, you're more susceptible to athlete's foot and are more likely to have an aggressive case. If that's the case, talk to your podiatrist as soon as symptoms develop.