Athlete’s Foot: Prevention and Treatment

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Does your workout regimen include visits to a health club?

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If so, it may be a breeding ground for all kinds of fungus—from swimming pool floors and diving boards to showers and locker rooms.

The most common contagious fungal infection that exercise enthusiasts are prone to developing is tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot. It grows best in dark, moist and warm environments, making sweaty feet tucked inside running shoes perfect targets.

Perhaps the most bothersome symptom is itching, burning feet. In some cases, the skin between the toes peels, cracks and scales. Others may experience redness, scaling or dryness on the soles and along the sides of the feet.

Some people who develop athlete’s foot may also be at risk for toenail fungus, which can be difficult to treat without dermatologic care.

“The best defense against athlete’s foot is to never go barefoot in a health club,” advises Brian B. Adams, MD, MPH, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati. “Wear shoes, socks, sandals or aquatic shoes at all times.”

Most cases of athlete’s foot respond well to over-the-counter treatments, he says, but persistent or recurring infections often require prescription-strength medications.

Natural treatments for organic consumers include aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, baking soda (added to water in a footbath) and foot powders.

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Photo courtesy of the University of Cincinnati

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