What is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is a type of fungal infection that affects the feet or toes. This fungal infection is medically known as tinea pedis. The fungus that causes the infection usually feeds on keratin or the skin protein. Keratin is found in the skin's top layer, including other areas of the body, such as hair. Most symptoms of athlete’s foot usually appear in the following parts of the body:
- Web spaces between the toes
- Across the bottom of the foot
- The heels or soles in the case of moccasin foot fungus
On most occasions, athlete's foot is not very serious and can be treated at home using over-the-counter creams for several weeks. The most common treatment for a mild case of athlete’s foot is an antifungal cream, which can be purchased from pharmacies or drug stores.
12 Treatments for Athlete's Foot
Athlete’s foot is often responsive to home remedies or treatments. Here are some of the most effective treatments available for athlete’s foot:
1. Over-the-counter medications
Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications for athlete’s foot are available in the form of powders, creams, ointments, and sprays. Fortunately, most athlete’s foot cases are responsive to OTC treatments, and may not need other treatment options.
These OTC treatments can be directly applied to the affected area for a week or two to completely get rid of the fungal infection.
2. Hydrogen peroxide
Fungus, as well as any bacteria on the skin's surface or the surface of the foot, can be effectively killed by the application of hydrogen peroxide. When applying hydrogen peroxide to the affected area, you may feel a sting and notice bubbles, particularly if you have broken skin. You can continue applying hydrogen peroxide until the infection goes away.
3. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has been widely known for its amazing antibacterial and antifungal properties, which is why it is commonly used for the treatment of fungal infections, such as candidiasis and ringworm. According to one study, tea tree oil can have the same effects as tolnaftate (an antifungal agent) when it comes to treating athlete’s foot.
To use tea tree oil for athlete’s foot, you need to add a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. You can use a mixture of 25-50 percent tea tree oil. Apply this mixture to the affected area 2-4 times daily for maximum benefit.
4. Rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol can be used for the same purposes with hydrogen peroxide, wherein it helps kill fungi and other microorganisms on the skin's surface. To use rubbing alcohol, prepare a footbath with 30 percent water and 70 percent rubbing alcohol and soak your feet for 30 minutes. You can also directly apply rubbing alcohol to the affected area to disinfect it.
5. Neem oil
Neem oil, as well as neem leaf extracts, have powerful antifungal properties that can help treat athlete's foot. Neem oil or extracts can be directly applied to the affected area 2-3 times daily. It can also help in treating fungal infections under the toenails.
6. Sea salt baths
Sea salt possesses potent antifungal and antibacterial effects, which is why it is one of the most effective natural remedies for athlete’s foot and its possible complications. It may also limit fungal growth and the spread of athlete’s foot.
Other natural remedies, such as vinegar, can be mixed with sea salt to create a paste. However, the most effective method of using sea salt for athlete's foot is by dissolving one cup of sea salt into a warm footbath. Let your feet soak in it for 20-30 minutes. After soaking, dry your feet thoroughly.
Garlic is an incredible antifungal remedy due to its most important antifungal compound called ajoene. Ajoene is formed from allinase (an enzyme) and allicin (a compound). When garlic is crushed or chopped, allinase and allicin join together to create an antibacterial agent, which develops into ajoene. Ajoene eliminates fungi and limits their activity along with reducing the symptoms of athlete's foot.
Although garlic's strong scent may be off-putting to some people, it can be quite effective for the treatment of athlete's foot. Moreover, garlic contains compounds and acids that can control an alkaline environment, which fungi love to thrive.
To use garlic for the treatment of athlete’s foot, you will need 4-5 cloves of crushed garlic. You can directly rub them over the affected area twice daily until you feel better.
8. Talcum powder
Talcum powder can be used to keep the feet clean and dry. Baby powder or corn starch works well in antifungal treatment. Fungus loves to thrive in warm and moist areas, so keeping the feet dry will make it hard for them to spread and survive.
When using talcum powder, be very careful not to inhale it. You can directly apply talcum powder or another antifungal powder to the affected area before putting on socks.
9. Oregano oil
According to research, oregano oil can effectively kill fungus, reduces molds, and helps cure Candida overgrowth. Some experts have also discovered that the effects of oregano oil are just as helpful as antifungal medications and antibacterials.
Therapeutic grade oregano oil contains 71 percent phenols, which are antiseptic compounds. Phenols include thymol and carvacrol, which are two active ingredients that kill fungus on contact. Carvacrol is particularly beneficial when it comes to controlling the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in the body.
10. Always keep your feet dry and clean
Fungi usually grow in airless, dark, and moist areas, which makes your feet the ideal environment for them to thrive. Athlete’s foot can be prevented by:
- Keeping your feet clean and dry as much as possible.
- Regularly changing your socks.
- Cleaning your feet and putting a new pair of socks after your workout.
- Avoid walking barefoot in gym areas or public pools.
- Making sure that the spaces between your toes are dry.
- Wearing well-ventilated shoes.
11. Healthy diet and lifestyle
The risk of developing fungal infections and other common health problems may increase in people who have a weakened immune system. The following factors may affect the body's resistance to fungal growth and other microbial growth:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor nutrition
- High levels of stress
- Chemical exposure
- Drug abuse
- Autoimmune diseases
- Poor circulation
- Antibiotic usage
- Hormone replacement drugs