And if you think athlete's foot is something that only 'other people' catch, then think again! If you've not been infected (yet), it probably just means you've just been lucky so far, as it's reported that over 70% of the population will develop athlete's foot during their lifetime.
As I said in the opening paragraph, this is a preventable condition, or at the very least, the risk of infection can be drastically reduced by taking proper preventative measures. But first, let's take a quick look at what athletes foot is exactly.
Athletes foot (tinea pedis), is a form of ringworm that lives on your skin and toenails. Most folks know it as a type of fungus. We all have one or more of the fungi that can cause athlete's foot on our bodies. They actually feed on dead skin cells and although this may sound repulsive to some, they are actually quite harmless.
How do we get Athlete's Foot? To contract it we have to provide the perfect conditions for the fungi to thrive, namely dark, humid and wet areas. Sweaty feet wrapped up inside dark tight fitting footwear (particularly trainers), are most at risk of getting infected. However, athlete's foot is highly contagious too, and can be picked up relatively easily by using other people's towels, shoes, socks, and also by standing on surfaces that have been stood and walked over by someone already infected.
What are the symptoms? The early symptoms of athlete's foot are when a red itchy rash appears between the toes (often starting between the 4th and 5th toes). If left untreated, this can become much worse with splitting and bleeding and an unbearable itching sensation.
How can we prevent it? Although there's not 100% protection against contracting athlete's foot, the risk of infection can be greatly reduced by taking the following preventative measures:
Make sure you dry your feet carefully after bathing, showering or swimming. Make extra sure you dry thoroughly between your toes.
Whenever possible, wear shoes made from leather or other natural materials as these help your feet to aerate easier. Rotate your footwear and especially sports shoes. The less time the fungi has to thrive, the better the chance are at keeping it away.
If your feet are prone to sweating, change your socks regularly and use cotton sock whenever possible as they breathe easier. You might even want to take a spare pair to work with you. Be sure to give your feet a quick wash between changing socks and dry thoroughly. You might also want to consider using shoe liners that are specially designed to help reduce foot moisture.
Wear flip flops (thongs), when using communal showers at local pools and gyms so as to reduce the risk of picking up other people's infection.
What are the cures? If you do find yourself infected with athlete's foot, it can be treated locally with antifungal creams, sprays, liquids and powders. All of these products are available over-the-counter from the high street pharmacists. Imidazole antifungals seem to be the most effective.
However, if you get a real stubborn bout that doesn't seem to respond to un-prescribed topical medicine, then visit your doctor for alternative treatment without further delay.
Remember, athletes foot is extremely contagious and it's important not to share towels or footwear with those infected. Additionally, read the instruction carefully for the medication you are using, as most will advise you to continue treatment up to 2 weeks after the condition has 'apparently' cleared up.
Read more on footwear and foot care including a review on the sporty New Balance Running Shoe at website www.hipfootwear.com/. The site also looks at Easy Spirit Shoes. All this plus more at Hip Footwear dot com.
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