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Don’t let athlete's foot become a summer bummer

Up in the Northeast, and across large swathes of the rest of the country, public and private pools are getting ready to open. Summer vacations are being planned and prepped for as the end of the school year approaches, and warm weather is moving in (albeit slowly in Pittsburgh) as we break out the picnic baskets and flip flops.

Along with summer's heat and humidity comes an increase of tinea pedis, more commonly known as athlete's foot. Athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet, but can sometimes spread to the hands, armpits and groin. It's the world's most common fungal skin infection, estimated to affect a whopping 70% of adults at some time in their life, though it occurs mostly with teenagers and adult males.

Athlete's foot, more precisely fungus that causes it, thrives in warm, wet and dark environments. It's commonly found in showers, locker room floors, and around swimming pools. But, walking barefoot in these areas is not the main culprit of athlete's foot, though it can be a contributing factor. Since the fungus needs warmth, wetness and darkness, you're most likely to get athlete's foot if you wear tight shoes and socks with no ventilation out in the heat (sweaty feet), by not changing your socks on a regular basis, and not washing your feet.

Here's what to avoid if you want your feet to be fungi free this summer:

  • Wash your feet often and use soap and water when you do so. When you're done, dry your feet well, especially around and between the toes.
  • If your socks or shoes get wet, change into dry shoes and socks as quickly as possible.
  • Don't share shoes, socks, slippers, flip flops, clogs, ski boots, etc. with other people.
  • Wear shoes and boots made of a material that can breathe, like canvas. Materials like vinyl don't breath and can create a habitat where fungus can live.
  • If walking around a public pool or spa, wear sandals or water shoes for protection.

Even if you take the right steps, you still may get that itching and burning feeling in your feet. Here are some symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Intense itching on the sole of your foot or in between your toes.
  • Cracking, peeling and/or blistering between the toes.
  • Dry patches of skin on the sides and soles of the foot.
  • Discolored, thick and crumbly toenails that sometimes pull away from the nail bed.

If you experience the symptoms above, you should seek care as quickly as possible. Quick care is increasingly important to anyone with a compromised immune system as the affected area is more vulnerable to skin infections. The good news is that effective treatment is readily available in the form of antibiotic creams. However, more persistent infections may require oral antibiotics. One important thing to remember is to continue treatment for the full recommended time period, even if everything appears to be back to normal.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms above, start an online visit to get fast relief for your feet.