Athlete’s Foot or Toenail Fungal Infection: Symptoms & treatment

What is Athlete’s foot infection?

Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection (caused by a fungus). Athlete’s foot causes an itchy, stinging, burning rash on the skin on one or both of your feet.

Athlete’s foot is most common between your toes, but it can also affect the tops of your feet, the soles of your feet and your heels. Your skin may become scaly and cracked or develop blisters. Sometimes, your feet smell bad. “Tinea pedis” is another name for athlete’s foot.

Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot Fungal Infection

Check your feet for these common symptoms of an athlete’s foot rash:

  • Discoloured and crumbling toenails
  • Itchy blisters
  • Dry skin on your soles or sides of your feet
  • Stinging, itching, burning, or cracking between your toes or on your soles


  • Unpleasant foot odour
  • Toenails that pull away from the skin
  • White and soggy toes
  • Peeling skin on the soles of the feet
  • Inflamed skin on the feet that might appear reddish, purplish, or greyish, depending on your skin colour

Causes of an athlete’s foot fungal infection

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection on feet caused by fungi that grow and spread on warm, moist skin. It’s very contagious, so it’s important to treat it right away. You can get tinea pedis when you come into contact with contaminated objects and surfaces, like towels, pools, and floors.

Athlete’s foot fungus is common in gyms, locker rooms, and playgrounds, where it spreads easily because of the number of people using these facilities. The warm, wet environment is also ideal for keeping tinea pedis alive.

Athlete’s foot risk factors

Athlete’s foot is common among both adults and children. People with weakened immune systems may be especially at risk for this fungal infection on the feet and may have problems fighting it off.

People who use public showers or locker rooms, athletes, people whose feet sweat a lot, and people who wear tight shoes also may be more likely to get athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot prevention or Treatment

Although athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection, you can take precautions to avoid getting it:

  • Wear fresh socks every day.
  • Wash your feet and dry them thoroughly after participating in sports or other activities that cause you to sweat.
  • Keep your toenails clean and trimmed.

If you do get athlete’s foot, here are ways you can prevent spreading it to others:

  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Don’t share bath towels.
  • Don’t walk barefoot in locker rooms, pool decks, or public showers.
  • Wear shoes that allow air to circulate freely around your feet.
  • Completely clean your home, especially the floors and bedding. Add bleach to the water in your mop bucket or to your laundry. Bleach kills an athlete’s foot fungus.

Self-care for an athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal rash that can usually be treated with nonprescription antifungal creams, ointments, lotions, or powders applied to the skin for two to four weeks.

For preventive athlete’s foot treatment, if you sweat a lot during the day, be sure to wash your feet with an antifungal cleansing bar and then apply antifungal powder or lotion. Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on a clean pair of socks.

When to see a doctor for an athlete’s foot

Contact your health care provider if the fungal infection on your feet doesn’t go away or gets worse, even after you’ve tried treating it yourself. Your primary care provider or dermatologist may also recommend a prescription antifungal cleanser, powder, or lotion.

Severe cases must be treated with prescription antifungal drugs to prevent the athlete’s foot from coming back. An athlete’s foot cannot be treated with antibiotics.


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