Athlete’s foot is caused by parasitic fungi which usually attack the feet. Many people are plagued by this malady, since the organisms which cause it are spread from contaminated floors surrounding pools and showers. The skin between the toes is most often attacked, but the disease may spread to any part of the feet and may break out on the hands. However, what appears on the hands is usually caused by absorbed toxins in the bloodstream rather than the organisms themselves.
As athlete’s foot develops, blisters or cracks appear in the skin, which softens, turns white, and peels off in flakes. There is itching and burning – occasionally pain. The disease is more severe in warm than in cool weather.
What to Do
- Keep the affected skin areas as cool and dry as possible. Wearing sandals or open-toed shoes will help.
- Protect other members of the household by refraining from walking barefoot about the house, especially the bathroom. Don’t use the family shower, and before using the bathtub soak the feet for at lest five minutes in a warm, saturated solution of boric acid.
- Every night at bedtime wash the feet briefly with mild soap and warm water. Then soak the feet for 15 to 30 minutes in a warm, saturated solution of boric acid. If boric acid solution is not available, use a warm saline solution (one tablespoonful of table salt to a quart of water). Then with a bit of gauze pick and rub away all loose bits of skin, taking care not to get any of the contaminated material under the fingernails. Then apply an athlete’s foot cream, working it carefully into the affected skin, especially between the toes.
- Every morning, wipe away the remaining medicated cream with dry gauze and dust the skin area thickly with antiseptic powder.
- Wear cotton hose, preferably white, changing it daily. To launder hose, boil for ten minutes or re-infection is certain.
- If sores appear on the hands, use only mild ointments. If itching is severe, apply 1 percent phenol in calamine lotion. When the sores on feet have healed, those on hands will probably disappear.
- To prevent a relapse after the infection appears to be cured, apply 2 percent ammoniated mercury ointment each evening, and talcum powder containing 1 percent of salicylic acid each morning, continuing the treatment for several weeks. Dust the same powder into the shoes daily.
- In severe cases, keep off the feet as much as possible and use the soaks and medicated cream as in (3) twice a day instead of once.
- In a persistent case consult a dermatologist. An antibiotic is usually helpful, but this requires a physician’s prescription.
- The person with athlete’s foot should be considerate of others by not using public showers or swimming pools until his infection is completely cured.