Medically known as Tinea Pedis, Athlete’s foot is a foot infection caused by fungus that usually begins to grow between toes. It is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the foot. Athlete’s foot can also affect soles or sides of the feet. If not treated well, it can spread to the toenails and hands. Athlete’s foot commonly occurs in people whose feet become very sweaty due to the confinement to tight fitted shoes. Athletes are more likely to sweat because of tight shoes. This is the reason why this fungal infection is known as ‘Athlete’s foot’. Athlete’s foot sometimes causes fluid-filled blisters. These blisters are small pockets of body fluids like lymph, serum, plasma, blood or pus within the upper layers of skin. They are caused by rubbing, burning, freezing, chemical exposures or injections. Most blisters are filled with clear fluid, either serum or plasma. Athlete’s foot isn’t serious but it is sometimes hard to cure. If you are diabetic or have a weak immune system, you must see a doctor. Common symptoms of Athlete’s foot include a scaly red rash between the toes, itching, blisters, chronic dryness, etc. Causes of Athlete’s foot Athlete’s foot occurs primarily because of the growth of tinea fungus on the foot. It can also be caused because of other kinds of fungi which produce ringworm and jock itch. Damp socks and shoes contain a lot of moisture and this might favour growth of fungi. It is commonly found in showers, locker room floors and around swimming pools. You can catch the fungus through direct contact with an infected person, or by touching objects contaminated with the fungi, such as towels, floors, and shoes. Risk factors for Athlete’s foot 1. Risks of athlete’s foot are higher in men than in women. 2. Wearing damp socks or tightly fitted shoes can increase risks of athlete’s foot. 3. Sharing mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes or shoes with someone who has a fungal infection can also cause athlete’s foot. 4. If you walk barefoot in public areas where the infection can spread, such as locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools, communal baths, and showers, you can be infected by Athlete’s foot. 5. After keeping your feet wet for long periods of time, your feet becomes moist. This also happens after swimming or taking a long shower. The foot area becomes extremely soft and sensitive, hence encouraging the growth of fungus. 6. If you have a minor skin or nail injury on your foot, it may lead to athlete’s foot. 7. If you have generally sweaty feet, you are prone to risks of athlete’s foot. Symptoms of Athlete’s foot Itching, stinging and burning between the toes or soles, blisters on the foot causing itching or irritation, cracks or peeling on feet’s skin, dry skin on soles and sides of feet, raw skin on feet, discoloured or crumbled toenails or toenails pulling away from nail bed are all symptoms of athlete’s foot. Do’s and Don’ts for Athlete’s foot Do’s 1. Dry your feet after washing them, particularly between your toes. Dab them dry instead of rubbing them. 2. Use a separate towel to wash your feet and wash it regularly. 3. Take off your shoes when you are at home. 4. Wear clean socks and shoes every day. Cotton socks are most recommended. Don’ts 1. Don’t scratch the affected skin- this can spread the infection to other parts of your body. 2. Don’t walk barefoot. Wear flip-flops in places like showers and changing rooms. 3. Don’t share towels and socks with anyone and especially those who are already affected by the infection. 4. Don’t wear shoes that confine your feet and make them sweaty. Wear shoes of your size; one which does not restrict your foot movement. Preventions of Athlete’s foot Following are some tips to prevent athlete’s foot 1. Put antifungal powder on your feet every day. 2. Don’t share socks, shoes or towels with others. 3. Wear sandals or flip-flops in public areas like swimming pools, saunas, etc. 4. To kill the infections wash your feet regularly. Washing with an antifungal recommendation would treat most cases of an Athlete’s foot. 5. Change socks every day and shoes on every second day. Athlete’s foot infection generally responds to the antifungal treatments. However, long-term infection is difficult to eliminate. For long-term treatment for athlete’s foot, antifungal medication is necessary. Monsoon season is such that the foot is more likely to carry moisture. So this season, if you get drenched in the rain or otherwise, remember to keep your foot clean and sanitized. We don’t want you to be wearing shoes to an Athlete’s foot.