Scratch...itch...scratch...itch! That’s the bothersome cycle of irritating skin conditions. Athlete’s foot is one of the most common causes of these uncomfortable symptoms. You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot.

A fungus causes athlete’s foot. The feet are most commonly affected, because shoes create a warm, dark and moist environment for the fungus to grow easily. The warm, damp areas around swimming pools, showers and locker rooms are also good breeding grounds for the fungi. Because the infection is common among athletes, the term “athlete’s foot” became a popular name for this condition.

If athlete’s foot is untreated, it can spread to the soles of the feet, toenails and other body parts, such as the groin and armpit. The infection can persist for a long time, contaminating bedding and clothing and promoting the spread of the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot:

  • burning
  • cracking of skin
  • dry skin
  • itching
  • scaling


  • Cream or oral medication is usually used to kill the fungi and stop the spread of athlete’s foot. Tinactin®, Micatin® or Lotrimin® creams are commonly used OTC products.
  • Bathe feet frequently and dry thoroughly, especially around and between toes.
  • Bathe feet twice a day, dry them thoroughly and then apply the antifungal cream.


  • Wear light and airy shoes, go barefoot or wear sandals as much as possible.
  • Change shoes routinely to allow moisture inside of shoes to dry out thoroughly.
  • Wear socks made of synthetic fibers. They will keep the feet drier and cooler than cotton socks. Change socks twice daily.
  • Avoid borrowing shoes from others.
  • Wear protective rubber footwear when using public showers or walking in pool areas.

In most cases, athlete’s foot is easily treated and symptoms are relieved within two weeks. Consult your physician if symptoms continue after two weeks of home treatment or if skin looks infected.

This article was written by Barb Warner, RN, a nurse on the Answer Line at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.


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