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Athlete’s foot is a very contagious fungal infection. Athlete’s foot is also known as “Tinea Pedis”.
Athlete’s foot can present as scaling in the feet, an itchy rash, or even vesicles. If you have athlete’s foot in your toes, you may notice wet, white tissue between the toes due to sweat accumulation.
Athlete’s foot may also cause burning of the skin and can cause an unpleasant odor.
It is more commonly seen in males than females. The risk of developing athlete’s foot increases with age.
Athlete’s foot may lead to fungal infection of the toenails known as “Onychomycosis”. Fungal infection of the toenails is also very contagious. Fungal infection of the toenail can cause the toenail to become thickened, discolored, and deformed.
You may pick up athlete’s foot and toenail fungus if you walk barefoot in public places. Such communal places include swimming pool floors, locker rooms, and even your home (especially if a family member suffers from foot fungus).
Even if athlete’s foot and nail fungus is treated, the recurrence rate is high. In addition, you can spread it easily.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you can do to prevent a fungal infection from recurring and spreading.
1) Avoid Walking Barefoot to Prevent Acquiring and Spreading Foot Fungus
Fungal infections are contagious. If you walk barefoot in public places like swimming pool floors and locker rooms, you are at higher risk of picking up athlete’s foot and also nail fungus. People who are older in age, immunocompromised, or diabetic, are more likely to get fungal infections (1).
Dermatophytes, which are responsible for fungal infections in the feet, have been found in changing rooms, walkways where people gather (including entrances and exits) as well as wrestling mats and nursing homes (1).
Fungus loves to thrive in wet moist environments. It can also be found in bathtubs and showers. That’s why it is very important to make sure to keep your feet covered with shoes. If you share a household with family members, it would be best to wear shower shoes to prevent the spread of foot fungus.
It’s also important to disinfect shared areas like the bathroom so foot fungus doesn’t spread. It is also important to not share shoes and socks with others.
2) Avoid Sharing Nail Polish to Prevent Spreading Foot Fungus
Sharing nail polish seems harmless. However, if you have a fungal infection in your toenail, you will want to avoid sharing your nail polish as you can spread fungus this way.
There was one study that found fungal infection can survive in nail polish for 60 days (2). It’s important to be aware of this information because if you just finished months of treatment to resolve nail fungus, you will want to make sure it doesn’t return.
If you are going to get a pedicure done, you may want to bring your own nail polish. There are antifungal nail polishes that you can purchase.
DaniPro Antifungal Nail Polish can be used if you are wishing to apply nail polish to your nails. It contains Undecylenic acid. Undecylenic acid is a fatty acid that helps prevent fungal growth. It is not a direct treatment for nail fungus like certain prescription FDA topicals, but you can use it on the nails in addition to prescription antifungal drops.
You can talk to your doctor about prescription topicals for nail fungus such as Jublia and Kerydin, which penetrate the nail well. Nail polish has not been shown to decrease the penetration of these prescription topicals (3). This means that you can use prescription drops while wearing your nail polish.
3) Wash Clothing at High Temperatures to Prevent the Spread of Foot Fungus
Interestingly, fungus can survive in hot environments, even after the clothing is washed. A study done by B. Amichai in the Internal Journal of Dermatology found that in 81 people’s socks that were washed in 40℃, 36% of socks showed fungal growth on culture. However, socks washed at a higher temperature of 60℃ showed a 6% of positive fungal growth on culture (4).
This suggests that you should aim to wash infected clothing that contains fungus in it at temperatures of at least 60℃ to prevent the spread of the fungus. Also, it may be helpful to wash clothing in separate loads from other members of the household to prevent spreading fungus.
4) Wear Copper-Impregnated Socks to Help Prevent Foot Fungus
Copper has antibacterial and antifungal properties in it. Exposure to high levels of copper is toxic to certain microorganisms. Nowadays, you can obtain copper oxide-infused socks that can help prevent the recurrence of athlete’s foot. Human skin is not sensitive to copper and the risk of adverse reactions due to copper is very low (5).
When your feet are in enclosed spaces like your shoes, wearing copper-infused socks can be beneficial because copper ions are released into the skin and can help prevent bacteria and fungus.
5) Apply Antifungal Powder to Your Shoes
Applying antifungal powder such as Terbinafine 1% powder in your shoes can be beneficial to prevent the recurrence of foot fungus (6). Terbinafine spray is also beneficial and can be directly applied inside the shoes.
You will also want to make sure to allow your shoes to air dry at the end of each day. Fungus likes to grow in wet, humid environments. The more you can dry out your shoes the better.
If your toes, in particular, tend to get sweaty when you wear your shoes, you can apply corn starch on your feet to help keep them dry.
Also, make sure you change socks in the middle of the day. This can help with sweaty feet.
6) Maintain Proper Hygiene
Make sure to keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet daily with soap and water. More importantly, make sure to dry your feet appropriately after bathing.
Fungus is commonly found between the fourth and fifth digits due to sweat accumulation. Make sure you dry in between the toes every day. If you need to, you can apply cotton in the interspaces between your toes when wearing shoes. This can help wick away moisture.
7) Treat Sweaty Feet
Keeping your feet dry is essential to preventing foot fungus. There are many options for treating sweaty feet including using antiperspirant spray. You can use Gold Bond antiperspirant spray daily.
If you want to try a home remedy you can perform Vinegar soaks. Mix 1 cup of white Vinegar with 2 cups of water and soak your feet for 10-15 minutes a day. This can help dry out your feet significantly.
Listerine soaks can be beneficial as well. You can mix ½ cup of Listerine, and ½ cup of Vinegar, with 1 gallon of water. You can soak your feet twice daily in this solution.
If you want to read a detailed guide on how to treat sweaty feet you can check out my blog post about it here.
Due to high recurrence rates, fungal infections in the feet can be very frustrating to deal with. In addition, the fungus is highly contagious and can be difficult to manage.
By using the above-mentioned tips, you can effectively manage foot fungus effectively.
Have you suffered from athlete’s foot before? How did you treat it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!
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- Jazdarehee, A., Malekafzali, L., Lee, J., Lewis, R., & Mukovozov, I. (2022). Transmission of onychomycosis and dermatophytosis between household members: a scoping review. Journal of Fungi, 8(1), 60.https://www.mdpi.com/2309-608X/8/1/60
- Klafke, G. B., Silva, R., Pellegrin, K. T., & Xavier, M. O. (2018). Analysis of the role of nail polish in the transmission of onychomycosis. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 93(6), 930–931.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6256209/
- Del Rosso J. Q. (2016). Application of Nail Polish During Topical Management of Onychomycosis: Are Data Available to Guide the Clinicians About What to Tell Their Patients?. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 9(8), 29–36.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5022994/
- Amichai B, Grunwald MH, Davidovici B, Farhi R, Shemer A. The effect of domestic laundry processes on fungal contamination of socks. Int J Dermatol. 2013 Nov;52(11):1392-4. doi: 10.1111/ijd.12167. Epub 2013 Jul 24. PMID: 23879806.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23879806/
- Borkow, G., Zatcoff, R. C., & Gabbay, J. (2009). Reducing the risk of skin pathologies in diabetics by using copper-impregnated socks. Medical hypotheses, 73(6), 883-886.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987709003764
- Gupta, A. K., Simkovich, A. J., & Hall, D. C. (2022). The March Against Onychomycosis: A Systematic Review of the Sanitization Methods for Shoes, Socks, and Textiles. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, 1(aop), 1-34.https://japmaonline.org/view/journals/apms/aop/21-223/21-223.xml
- Javed, A., e Zahra, G., & Amjad, M. (2020). Feet Microbial Infections. American Academic Scientific Research Journal for Engineering, Technology, and Sciences, 70(1), 172-183.https://www.asrjetsjournal.org/index.php/American_Scientific_Journal/article/view/6005/2194
- Richie Jr, D., & FAAPSM, D. F. Do Socks Harbor Fungal Pathogens?https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/podiatry/blogged/do-socks-harbor-fungal-pathogens
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