Athletes are not the only ones who get the itchy skin rash known as “athlete’s foot.” Anyone can acquire athlete’s foot if bare feet are exposed to the fungus in the right environment, such as wet school gyms and shower floors.
Athlete’s foot is a very common rash on the skin of the foot. The fungus that causes it grows on warm, damp surfaces such as around pools, public showers and locker rooms. The fungus can cause infection when it comes in contact with conditions that allow it to thrive, including bare damp feet. “Most people, especially teenage boys, are likely to contract athlete’s foot at some point in their lives,” says Dr. Robert Morris, pediatrician at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.
Symptoms include itching, burning, cracking, blistering or peeling areas between the toes, as well as redness and scaling on the soles of the feet and raw skin. Occasionally, the open skin can become infected with bacteria that will cause pain and spreading redness.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the foot, including toenails, and infect other parts of the body – such as the groin, inner thighs and underarms.
Physicians can generally diagnose athlete’s foot just by looking at the infected feet. Over-the-counter topical antifungal creams and sprays will kill the fungus. For infections that involve the soles, prescription oral medication may be prescribed.
Ways to avoid athlete’s foot include:
• Washing feet every day and drying them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
• Wearing footwear that allows feet to “breathe.”
• Wearing shower sandals or shoes in pool areas, public showers and gyms.
• Using antifungal powder in your sneakers or shoes.
• Keeping home bathroom surfaces – especially showers and tubs – clean.
“Parents should talk to their children about how common these infections are in order to get them to recognize symptoms and seek treatment before the rash becomes more bothersome and uncomfortable,” Dr. Morris advises.
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