By: Coco Ang, PT
Athletes foot—or tinea pedis, as it is known medically—is caused by fungi that infect and enter the skin through small cracks and wounds in the top layer of the skin. The fungal infection can spread either through direct contact with the infected skin or through contact with the flakes of the skin.
Most people incorrectly believe that athlete’s foot, as the name suggests, only occurs with athletes. This is a wrong assumption. Anyone can be affected by athlete’s foot. This is especially true for individuals who wear damp or moist socks for extended periods of time and those who do not dry their feet properly before putting socks on.
Since fungal infections thrive in moisture and warm places, the usage of worn or damp socks and shoes can cause athlete’s foot.
Another common misconception is that the athlete’s foot only occurs during summer. This is an incorrect assumption. Although Athlete’s foot is more common during the summer months due to warmer temperatures, recently, podiatrists having been receiving a higher number of cases of athlete’s foot in the winter due to people wearing thick, warm socks and heavy, enclosed boots that often don’t allow for ventilation.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Athlete’s foot can be detected with the development of dry, red or itchy skin. The infection begins between the toes, more particularly between the little toe and the one next to it. The skin surrounding these toes begins to turn red and cracks, leaving it flaky and itchy. The skin may also thicken, turn white and appear to be swollen.
As the infection develops, it may even spread to other parts of the feet, such as soles and toenails, causing blisters to form.
A podiatrist can detect a case of athlete’s foot upon sight and may send a scraping from the feet to the lab for analysis. The course of the treatment may include oral antifungal drugs as prescribed by the podiatrist.
However, prevention remains to be the most effective form of treatment against athlete’s foot.
Preventing Athlete’s Foot In The Winters
There are many preventive measures that can be taken to decrease your risk of contracting the fungal infection during winters.
- Keep your feet clean.Your morning and bedtime rituals should include washing your feet with soap and water, every day. Make sure to clean between your toes as this is where the infection typically starts. Ensure that you dry your feet properly before you put your socks on.
- Wear footwear in public places and showers. Give importance to your personal hygiene by wearing footwear in common public places such as public showers, changing rooms and gyms. Athlete’s foot can easily spread from one person to another upon contact. Try to wear flip-flops at home too because if a family member has caught the infection, it can easily be contracted by you. Stay particularly vigilant in hotel rooms, spas or at nail salons, where other people may have been bare foot.
- Keep your feet dry.If your feet tend to sweat out a lot, try changing your socks twice or thrice a day. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day and alternate your footwear. Additionally, using talcum powder every time you change your socks can also help keep your feet free from excessive moisture that may cause the fungal infection.
- Pay attention to your footwear.Wearing shoes that may be too tight or shoes that do not successfully secure your feet from coming into contact with rain or snow may lead to developing athlete’s foot. It’s essential to wear footwear that protects your feet while providing a comfortable fitting.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of athlete’s foot, seek an appointment with a podiatrist immediately.
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