Here are some home remedies for preventing the spread of athlete's foot, curing a mild case at home, and choosing the right footwear.
Spread the Word
If you have athlete's foot, follow these simple tips to reduce the risk of spreading it:
- Wash your hands with soap and water after coming into contact with the infected area.
- After bathing, wash out the tub or shower with an antiseptic cleaner such as Lysol.
- Don't share towels, and keep your linens and towels clean.
- Wash your socks twice in extra-hot water to kill fungal spores. Never wear the same pair of socks more than once without washing them first.
- Wear thongs in public showers.
- Keep your feet dry, and use over-the-counter treatments to clear your infection quickly.
Best Foot Forward
While severe or stubborn cases of athlete's foot may require a doctor's care, most can be effectively treated at home. The following strategies can help you soothe and heal athlete's foot and keep it from cropping up in the future.
Move away from moisture.
When you think about athlete's foot fungus, remember that it likes moist, warm, dark environments. All of your treatment and prevention strategies should center around keeping your feet as dry as possible.
Dry thoroughly between your toes.
If you can't get your feet dry enough with a towel, try drying them with a handheld hair dryer on the "warm" setting.
Wash your feet twice a day with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly.
Kick off your shoes.
Go barefoot or wear sandals or open-toed shoes whenever you can, when not in a moist environment. Of course, it's not always possible to go barefoot, especially at work. But you may be able to sneak off those shoes during lunch, at break time, or when you're sitting at your desk. Going barefoot is best done indoors, where you are less likely to cut, scrape, or otherwise injure your foot.
Over-the-counter antifungal preparations are very effective for most cases of athlete's foot. These products come in creams, sprays, or solutions and contain tolnaftate (Tinactin), miconazole (Micatin), or undecylenic acid (Desenex). Creams seem to be more effective, but powders can help absorb moisture. Apply the medication twice a day after washing and drying the feet.
Too often, people stop using the antifungal preparations as soon as symptoms go away. The fungus, however, may still be present, so continue to use the medication for three to six weeks. Once the infection has cleared, keep using the antifungal cream, powder, or lotion once a day or once a week, whatever keeps your feet fungus free.
Soak them in Betadine.
If the infection has caused redness and cracks between the toes, the fungal infection may be compounded by a bacterial infection. Soak your feet once a day for 20 minutes in a solution of two capfuls Betadine (available over-the-counter at pharmacies) and one quart warm water (skip this remedy if you are pregnant, however). After the Betadine soak, dry your feet well, and apply antifungal medication.
While the idea is to dry out the infection, avoid home remedies that involve strong chemicals and solvents, such as bleach, alcohol, or floor cleaners, which can severely damage skin.
Treat your shoes.
If you have fungus on your feet, you've got fungus in your shoes. To keep from reinfecting yourself every time you put your shoes on, treat your shoes with Lysol spray or an antifungal spray or powder every time you take off your shoes.
Air 'em out.
On warm, sunny days, take the laces out of your shoes, pull up their tongues, and set them in a sunny, well-ventilated place. The sunshine and circulating air will help dry out the shoes and kill fungus.
Switch shoes at least every other day. Wear one pair for a day, while you treat the other pair with sunlight and an antifungal spray or powder. If your feet sweat a lot, change your shoes a couple times a day.
Choose shoes with care.
When you have to wear shoes, opt for sandals or other opened-toed shoes that give your feet lots of air. Avoid shoes made of plastic or rubber or shoes that are watertight. These shoes trap perspiration and create the warm, moist conditions perfect for growing a new crop of fungus. When you must wear closed-toed shoes, opt for natural, breathable materials such as leather. And don't share or swap shoes with anyone. If you find yourself with a pair of someone else's vintage shoes, treat them with an antifungal powder before you put them on.
Exercise your sock options.
Socks made of natural fibers such as cotton and wool help to absorb perspiration and keep the feet dry. However, some research suggests acrylic socks may do an even better job of keeping feet dry by wicking moisture away from the feet. So what kind do you choose? Try a pair of both, and see which one keeps your feet drier and more comfortable.
If your feet naturally sweat a lot or if you're participating in activities such as sports that make your feet sweat more than usual, change your socks two or three times a day.
When you're in a public place likely to harbor athlete's foot fungus, such as the locker room of your favorite gym, wear thongs or similar shower shoes to limit your exposure to fungus. Although this technique isn't foolproof, it will decrease your risk of athlete's foot, and it may prevent you from picking up other nasty foot maladies, such as plantar warts.
Numerous antifungal creams are on the market that can rid you of your foot fungus. They tend to be costly, though, and you may have to buy several tubes or cans before the problem is cleared up. Before you trudge off to the pharmacy on those poor, itchy feet, you might want to try some of the home remedies on the next page.