Noticed a red, itchy rash on your feet? You could have athlete’s foot — a fungal infection that affects the skin on your feet. We asked our pharmacists how to recognise the symptoms, and which athlete’s foot treatments they’d recommend to clear up the infection.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot — also called tinea pedis — is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet. It usually begins between the toes, but it can also spread to the toenails and hands. It’s quite common amongst athletes — hence the name — as the fungal infection spreads when feet are sweaty and confined in tight-fitting shoes.
The infection shows up as a red, scaly rash that can often come with an itching, stinging and burning sensation. It’s not a serious condition, but sometimes it can be hard to cure. And because it’s contagious, it can spread via contaminated floors, towels or clothing.
What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?
There are a few varying symptoms of athlete’s foot, but the main one to look out for is a scaly red rash that usually starts in between the toes. You might also experience itchiness, stinging or burning, either on your toes on or the soles of your feet, that’s usually worse when you take off your shoes and socks.
Other symptoms can include:
- blisters or ulcers that itch
- dry skin or scaling on the soles or the sides of your feet — this can often be mistaken for dry skin or eczema
- raw skin on your feet
- discoloured, thick and crumbly toenails
- toenails that pul away from the nail bed
The infection can affect one or both feet, and if you scratch or pick at the infected parts of your feet, it can also spread can spread to your hands, or other areas of your body. It’s important to wash your hand thoroughly with soap and water after touching the affected area.
What causes athlete's foot?
Athlete’s foot occurs when the tinea fungus grows on the feet. The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, like showers, swimming pools, gym changing rooms etc. And it can be passed from person to person via direct contact with someone who is infected, or by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the fungus.
What treatments are there for athlete’s foot?
Over-the-counter topical antifungal medications are usually successful at clearing up the infections including antifungal powders, creams, and sprays. Here are some effective OTC treatments recommended by our pharmacists:
Daktarin Anti-Fungal Powder 30g
Canesten Anti-Fungal Cream 50g
Dermal Therapy Heel Balm 50g
Ego SolvEasy Tinea Spray 16mL
Odor Eaters Foot Powder 100g
Wart Off Warts Treatment Stick 5g
Manicare Clippers With Nail File
MgBody Foot Soak Zest 350g
If OTC medications don’t work, your doctor may prescribe you a topical or oral prescription-strength antifungal medication instead.
When should I see a doctor?
If you have a rash on your foot that doesn't improve within two weeks of using OTC antifungal treatments, visit your doctor.
If you have diabetes, you should see your doctor if you suspect you have athlete's foot, particularly if you notice any signs of a possible bacterial infection such as excessive redness, swelling, drainage or fever.
How do you prevent athlete’s foot?
There are several things you can do to help prevent athlete’s foot, or ease the symptoms if the infection:
- wash your feet thoroughly with soap and warm water every day
- keep your feet dry and powdered with an over-the-counter antifungal foot powder
- never hare shoes, socks, or towels
- if you get athlete's foot, wash your socks and towels in the hottest water possible
- change your socks when your feet get sweaty
- air out your feet at home
- wear shoes made of breathable material
- protect your feet in public places — wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and lockers rooms