Medically termed as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal skin infection of the feet that initially develops between the toes and spreads to the adjoining region, sometimes as far as the toe nails.(1) If the infection happens to be particularly aggressive, it might even afflict other regions of the body as well such as the groin and palms.
This infection derives its name from the fact that it’s largely prevalent among, but not limited to, athletes who are given to wearing tight-fitting shoes for prolonged periods. Moreover, people of all ages and gender run the risk of getting infected, either by picking up the fungus directly or via indirect transmission from another infected person.
Dermatophytes, or the breed of fungi that is primarily responsible for this infection, is also at the root of several other skin, hair and nail infections. Since the culpable fungi requires warmth and moisture to thrive and feeds on the keratin protein found in your skin, your sweaty feet that often remain enclosed by socks and shoes serve as an ideal breeding ground.
- Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
- Risk Factors for Developing Athlete’s Foot
- Preventing Athlete’s Foot
- Home Treatment for Athlete’s Foot
- Method 1: Use Apple Cider Vinegar
- Method 2: Use Vinegar
- Method 3: Use Garlic
- Method 4: Use Listerine
- Method 5: Use Tea Tree Oil
- Method 6: Use Borax
- Method 7: Use Vicks
- Tips to heal athlete's foot at home
Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
- A rash or dry, scaly and flaky skin between the toes and on the soles of the feet.
- Stinging, burning and itching sensations between the toes and on the soles of the feet.
- Itching blisters on the feet.
- Raw skin on the feet.
- Thick, discolored and crumbly toenails.
- Toenails that pull away from the nail beds.
In severe cases, the damaged skin may promote a bacterial infection, which can further lead to cellulitis, a condition marked by redness and swelling of the feet.
Risk Factors for Developing Athlete’s Foot
You are more likely to develop athlete's foot if you:
- Frequently wear damp socks or tight-fitting shoes.
- Wear shoes that cause your feet to get hot and sweaty.
- Don't keep your feet clean and dry.
- Walk around barefoot in places prone to spreading fungal infections like gyms and locker rooms.
- Share towels, socks, shoes, mats, rugs and linens with a person suffering from a fungal infection.
- Have a weakened immune system and those with poorly controlled blood sugar.
Preventing Athlete’s Foot
There are several things you can do to prevent developing this fungal infection. These include:
- Wash and dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, with soap and water each day.
- Try to keep your feet dry at all times.
- Apply antifungal powder on your feet every day.
- When at home, walk barefoot as much as possible.
- Wear loose-fitting and well-ventilated shoes.
- Change your footwear regularly so that they remain relatively dry. Shoes need time to dry out.
Home Treatment for Athlete’s Foot
Medication for athlete’s foot aims to relieve itching, scaling, pain and discomfort as well as drying out any blisters.
You can heal athlete’s foot and kill the fungal infection on your own using home remedies. Foot soaks and other natural remedies can effectively deal with athlete’s foot and its symptoms.
Method 1: Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, a powerful fungicidal agent, is one of the best remedies to manage any fungal infection, be it a toenail infection or athlete’s foot. (2) It helps to control the blood sugar levels. Its acidic properties on the other hand help curb the alkaline environment on the skin to restrict the growth and spread of the fungus.
There are two ways you may use apple cider vinegar to cure athlete’s foot.
- Simply mix 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it on an empty stomach. Drink it once in the morning and again at night before going to bed.
- You may also treat your feet with an apple cider vinegar foot soak. To prepare the footbath, follow the steps below.
Step 1. Pour apple cider vinegar into a tub with warm water
- Fill a tub with enough warm water to soak your foot.
- Pour 12 to 16 ounces of apple cider vinegar into the water.
Step 2. Soak your foot in the solution for 30 minutes
- Soak the affected foot in the solution for 30 minutes.
- When done, grab a soft towel and pat dry your foot.
- Repeat once daily for up to 10 days to observe optimal results, although apple cider vinegar may provide relief in as little as 1 or 2 days.
Method 2: Use Vinegar
Most of the fungi on the skin thrive on the alkaline environment it creates for itself. Like apple cider vinegar, regular vinegar can help create an acidic environment that inhibits the growth of the fungus. (3)
Vinegar also helps draw out excess moisture from the feet, thus speeding up the healing process.
Step 1. Mix vinegar in a tub with lukewarm water
- Fill a tub with enough lukewarm water to soak your foot.
- Pour approximately 1 cup of vinegar into the water and mix well.
Step 2. Soak your foot in the solution for 30 minutes
- Soak your affected foot in the foot soak for 30 minutes.
- When done, pat your foot dry with a soft towel.
- Repeat once each night before going to bed for 1 week to get optimal results.
Method 3: Use Garlic
Garlic also contains acids and compounds that help curb the alkaline environment in which the fungus thrives.
The presence of ajoene, a compound that inhibits the growth of fungus on the skin, makes garlic an incredibly effective remedy for treating fungal infections. (4) Ajoene acts as a fungicidal agent to eliminate fungus and restrict their activity, while also reducing the symptoms of the condition.
Things you’ll need:
- Garlic cloves, minced (inhibits fungal growth) – 2 to 3
- Olive oil (promotes healing) – ½ teaspoon
Step 1. Mix garlic and olive oil into a paste
- Mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic and put them in a bowl.
- Pour ½ teaspoon of olive oil into the minced garlic.
- Mix well to form a smooth paste.
Step 2. Apply the paste on the affected foot
- Apply the paste evenly on the infected skin.
- Leave it to dry for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Rinse it off with warm water and pat dry with a soft towel.
- Repeat twice daily until you obtain satisfactory results. This garlic oil may provide relief in just 2 days.
Method 4: Use Listerine
Listerine has been gaining popularity in online forums for numerous fungal conditions like a nail fungus as well as unbearable foot odor. Its disinfecting property makes it equally effective for another fungal condition – athlete’s foot. (5) (6)
Listerine contains alcohol, the active ingredient that makes it incredibly good for treating fungal infections. Therefore, alcohol-free Listerine won’t work well.
A combination of Listerine and vinegar works even better to cure athlete’s foot, as the acidic properties in vinegar effectively inhibit the growth of the fungus.
Listerine and vinegar may be used as individual remedies or in combination to cure the infection.
Things you’ll need:
- Listerine mouthwash (eliminates fungal growth)
- White vinegar (inhibits fungal growth)
Step 1. Put equal parts of Listerine and vinegar in a tub
- Fill a tub halfway with lukewarm water. Check the temperature of the water to ensure it comfortably suits your skin. Make sure that the quantity of water is sufficient to immerse your feet completely.
- Pour some Listerine into the tub.
- Add an equal amount of white vinegar to it.
- Swirl with your hand to combine the liquids well.
Step 2. Immerse the affected foot in the foot soak
- Soak the affected foot for about 1 hour. If you don’t have much time, you may reduce the soaking time to 30 minutes.
- Rinse your foot with normal water and pat dry using a towel.
- Repeat 2 times a day for a week.
Method 5: Use Tea Tree Oil
An effective fungicidal agent, tea tree essential oil is capable of restricting the growth of fungal infections on the skin. It also helps boost your immunity to prevent the fungus from infecting the skin further. (7)
The antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antimicrobial and healing properties of tea tree essential oil make it perhaps the most beneficial essential oil when it comes to treating pain and inflammation of the skin.
Things you’ll need:
- Tea tree essential oil (fungicidal agent) – 5 to 7 drops
- Olive oil (a healing carrier oil) – 1 tablespoon
Step 1. Blend tea tree oil and olive oil
- Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl.
- Add 5 to 7 drops of tea tree essential oil to it.
Step 2. Dab the oil blend on the affected skin
- Apply the oil blend on the affected skin.
- Leave it to dry for 30 minutes.
- Rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat twice each day for 1 or 2 weeks to get desirable results.
Method 6: Use Borax
It helps prevent unwanted moisture on the feet that is a primary cause of athlete’s foot. You may sprinkle a small quantity of the ingredients on your foot or make yourself a solution for a foot soak.
Things you'll need:
- Borax (fungicidal agent) – 1 tablespoon
- Baking soda (keeps the skin dry) – 2 tablespoons
- Lavender essential oil (anti-inflammatory agent, imparts fragrance) – 4 or 5 drops
- Patchouli essential oil (anti-inflammatory agent, imparts fragrance) – 2 or 3 drops
Step 1. Put borax and baking soda in a tub with lukewarm water
- Fill a large tub (large enough to comfortably accommodate your feet) halfway with lukewarm water.
- Add 1 tablespoon of borax and 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the water.
Step 2. Add the essential oils and mix well
- Add 4 or 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 or 3 drops of patchouli oil.
- Swirl the water with your hands to mix the ingredients completely in the water.
Alternatively, you may use peppermint or rosemary essential oil. While the former has re-energizing properties, the latter is extremely good for relieving pain.
Step 3. Soak your foot in the bath and dry with a towel
- Soak your affected foot in the footbath for 15 minutes. You may set the tub by a chair for a comfortable resting position.
- Wipe your foot comfortably with a dry towel.
- Be sure to dry the area completely, including between your toes.
- Repeat the process once each day for about 10 days to get optimum results.
Method 7: Use Vicks
While there are a number of ways for using Vicks VapoRub, here we’ll explain how to use it for treating athlete’s foot.
The presence of menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil makes Vicks VapoRub an effective remedy for this fungal infection. (10)
The petroleum jelly-based ingredient softens and helps slough off the infected skin.
Single-Step Treatment: Apply Vicks VapoRub on the affected area
- Dab some Vicks Vaporub on the affected area.
- Massage for 2 to 3 minutes and put on some socks.
- Leave it overnight before rinsing it off the next morning.
- Repeat twice a day for 1 week for optimum results. If your condition is severe, it may take longer, but minor cases of athlete’s foot can be cured within a couple of days.
Tips to heal athlete's foot at home
- Wash and dry your feet thoroughly each day, especially between the toes.
- Athlete’s foot is a contagious infection. Avoid sharing towels, rugs, linens, socks and shoes to prevent spreading the infection.
- Wear pool slippers or sandals while using public showers.
- Alternate your shoes each day to allow the moisture in the footwear to dry out completely.
- Keep your feet dry with talcum powder (antifungal).
- Do not wear tight-fitting shoes, especially during warm weather.
- Wear socks made out of cotton, wool or fabrics that wick away moisture from the skin.
- Allow your feet to breathe by frequently slipping out your footwear.
- The same pesky fungus that causes athlete's foot also causes ringworm and jock itch. You can deal with them in the same way.
- Tinea Infections: Athlete's Foot, Jock Itch and Ringworm. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/0701/p177.html. Published July 1, 1998.
- Manohar J, P. G. Antifungal activity of apple cider vinegar against clinical isolates of candida species. International Journal of Current Research. http://www.journalcra.com/article/antifungal-activity-apple-cider-vinegar-against-clinical-isolates-candida-species. Published 2010.
- Pinto TMS, Neves ACC, Leão MVP. Vinegar as an antimicrobial agent for control of Candida spp. in complete denture wearers. Journal of Applied Oral Science. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1678-77572008000600006. Published 2008.
- Ledezma E, DeSousa L, Jorquera A, et al. Efficacy of ajoene, an organosulphur derived from garlic, in the short-term therapy of tinea pedis. Mycoses. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9009665. Published 1996.
- Nelms CB-. Get More Out of Mouthwash Than Just Fresh Breath. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2018/household-uses-mouthwash-fd.html. Published March 16, 2018.
- Shrestha A, Rimal J, Rao A. In vitro antifungal effect of mouth rinses containing chlorhexidine and thymol. Journal of Dental Sciences. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S199179021100002X. Published March 21, 2011.
- Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. In vitro activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil against dermatophytes and other filamentous fungi. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12161399. Published August 2002.
- Rocha Soares MMS, Cury AE. In vitro activity of antifungal and antiseptic agents against dermatophyte isolates from patients with tinea pedis. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1517-83822001000200012. Published 2001.
- Letscher-Bru V, Obszynski CM, Samsoen M, Sabou M, Waller J, Candolfi E. Antifungal activity of sodium bicarbonate against fungal agents causing superficial infections. Mycopathologia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22991095. Published February 2013.
- Derby R, Rohal P, Jackson C, Beutler A, Olsen C. Novel treatment of onychomycosis using over-the-counter mentholated ointment: a clinical case series. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21209346. Published 2011.
Summary of How to Get Rid of Athlete’s Foot
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