You ignore the bit of dryness on your feet at first because who really fastidiously examines their feet?
Then, it starts to itch in between your toes and the voice in the back of your head tells you that something might not be right.
Before you know it, you have yucky looking scaly patches all over and your toenails are thick and discolored.
It turns out you have a case of tinea pedis, more commonly known as athlete’s foot.
Never fear, there are many things you can do about this common issue so that you can feel comfortable posting a #feetselfie in the near future.
Athlete’s foot is a type of fungal infection.
What this means is that it thrives in a damp environment like can often be found on feet, especially in the area between your toes. This can be exacerbated if you wear particularly tight shoes, the same shoes all of the time, or shoes made out of non-breathable material like rubber boots.
While as much as 25% of the population may be suffering from athlete’s foot, it is more likely to be a problem for men than women.
The best way to deal with athlete’s foot is not to get it in the first place!
Some simple steps can help reduce your likelihood of suffering from this infection.
- Wash your feet thoroughly on a daily basis with mild soap and make sure to dry them completely.
- Wear flip flops when showering in public facilities like those at pools, gyms, dorms and campgrounds.
- Make sure the nail salon you visit properly sterilizes all of their instruments.
- Rotate what shoes you wear so that each pair has plenty of time to dry out before you wear them again (Ladies, this is clearly a great reason to buy more shoes, as though you needed one!)
- Wear socks made out of natural fiber like cotton.
- Go barefoot at home to give your skin the chance to dry out.
- If you are prone to other skin problems like dermatitis or eczema take extra care with your hygiene routine. These conditions may indicate that you are more likely to be at risk for picking up athlete’s foot.
Antifungal medications are readily available over-the-counter.
The three most common ones are terbinafine (Lamisil), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), and miconazole (Micatin).
These are topical treatments that need to be applied for two to six weeks in order to achieve results. They come as powders, creams and sprays and often can cost more than $10 for a half ounce.
In addition, even after use, as many as 30% of patients are not free of infection.
In this case, oral antifungals can be prescribed by a doctor. These treatments tend to be more effective but are not without problems.
- They are not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.
- They can interfere with other medicines like blood thinners and beta-blockers, just to name two and they can have substantial side effects.
- The side effects can range from dizziness, nausea, headache and diarrhea, to rash and itching which are particularly interesting considering those are also the symptoms you would be trying to alleviate!
At Home Treatment Options
There are many benefits to treating your infection with alternative methods.
Many options are inexpensive and can be undertaken with products you probably have in your house right now. There is also a much lower risk from side effects than with strictly chemical options.
In addition, when combined with ongoing foot hygiene, these methods can have success rates on par with pharmaceutical options.
1. Make a cornstarch paste
Cornstarch is an ingredient that many people probably have in their pantry.
Today, it is most frequently used as a thickening agent for sauces and soups. It can also be used as an ingredient to make cookies and other baked goods more tender.
Cornstarch has other non-food applications too.
It is one of the main ingredients in many baby powders due to its ability to absorb moisture, as well as, soothe and repair irritated skin.
A homemade cornstarch paste provides these same benefits to help combat athlete’s foot.
Directions: Mix ½ cup of cornstarch with some warm water to make a paste. Rub on feet and in between toes. Leave it for 5 to 10 minutes then brush off, making sure to remove any excess with a clean towel. Do this morning and night.
2. Soak your feet in Povidone-iodine (Betadine).
Povidone-iodine is an antiseptic that is often used to prepare the skin before surgery.
It can also be used to treat minor wounds and injuries. At least once a week at my house, we paint some Betadine onto a child’s skinned knee to try to prevent infection and aid in healing. Povidone-iodine is such a critical antiseptic that the World Health Organization has placed it on its list of essential medicines.
Soaking your feet in a compound of PVPI and water will help, clean, disinfect, and heal your scaly, scratchy feet.
Directions: Mix 1 quart of water with 2 capfuls of PVPI. Soak your feet for 20 minutes twice a day. Make sure to completely dry after each treatment.
3. Apply an oregano oil rub
This essential oil has been found to have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.
In studies, antiseptic compounds called phenols, including thymol and carvacrol have killed fungus on contact.
These compounds make oregano oil great for fighting blemishes and it can be used in mouthwash to combat the germs that can make your breath stinky.
In fact, when taken internally, oregano oil boosts overall immune function, helping your body to maintain overall health.
To give your athlete’s foot a one, two punch you could apply it topically and also take it internally to maximize the benefit.
Directions: Mix a few drops of this oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil, and apply 3 or 4 times a day to the affected areas. To take internally, simply place a drop or two in a veggie cap.
4. Soak your feet in Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has been around for ages and has many uses. It can be used to bleach hair and applied to teeth to whiten them.
It also is an important component of many cleaners for its ability to whiten and because it is good at killing mold and mildew.
These same qualities make it a reliable choice to combat infection on your body.
Directions: Mix one pint of 3% hydrogen peroxide into a gallon of distilled water. Soak feet in this mixture for 30 minutes, twice a day. Dry feet completely.
5. Make a baking soda paste
Baking soda is crucial for many recipes to help ensure that the dough rises properly.
It is also great at absorbing odors. People often place an open box in their refrigerator or place some in their gym bag or diaper pail to help neutralize unpleasant scents.
It also has disinfectant properties and is an effective fungicide.
Directions: Sprinkle this directly into shoes, to help remove moisture and keep both shoes and feet dry.
Create a paste from 3 parts baking soda to one part water. Rub this on the feet and let it dry. Rinse off excess and dry.
6. Apply a melaleuca oil rub
Melaleuca, also known as tea tree oil, comes from a plant that is native to Australia.
Tea tree oil is well known for its antimicrobial properties. In fact, it can also be used to treat acne and to heal wounds.(I have used it in the past on my acne and it helped minimize and heal pimples with more success than the special acne medication I had previously been using).
It is especially suited to treat dermatological issues including dandruff and athlete’s foot. An added perk is that it has an uplifting and refreshing scent that can have a beneficial effect on your nervous system while you treat your skin problem.
Directions: Mix 2 to 3 drops of this with a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil and apply to your toes 3 to 4 times a day. It is important to make sure you get a high-quality oil to ensure maximum effectiveness like this one.
7. Soak your feet in green tea
Green tea is known to be antifungal and antibacterial.
It is also packed with antioxidants and drinking it regularly has been shown to have all kinds of health benefits including helping to fight cell damage from aging and from illness.
Brew a cup to drink while you are soaking your feet!
Directions: Steep 12 tea bags in 8 cups of water. Once cooled soak your feet for 10 to 15 minutes. Dry feet well. Do this twice a day.
Tips for at Home Success
Make sure you wash your hands both before and after undertaking any product application.
Use a towel to dry your feet very thoroughly and then make sure to wash the towel on a hot or sanitize cycle since athlete’s foot is quite contagious.
Use a hair dryer on a low setting if you are having trouble getting completely dry with the towel.
Make sure to continue your treatment regimen for seven to fourteen days after the symptoms disappear to ensure that you have truly eradicated any lurking fungus.
Athlete’s foot is not pretty to look at and can cause real discomfort when it cracks and itches.
Also, because it is contagious it can spread easily to other family members or other parts of your own body which would be unfortunate and even more uncomfortable!
Optimally, it is best to take preventative measures before you get it. Keep your feet clean and dry at all times and avoid walking barefoot in moist places where the pesky fungus thrives.
Once you have athlete’s foot, it is even more critically important to follow basic foot hygiene coupled with the treatment option of your choice.
While over-the-counter creams are available, they are fairly expensive and don’t always work that well.
Using an at home, natural remedy can frequently have similar or even better results.
Finding the DIY method that is best for you might simply be a case of looking in your cupboard to see what you already have. Almost everyone’s pantry probably has some cornstarch in it.
If you are busy and need to maximize your time, an essential oil treatment might make the most sense since it can be applied quickly and easily and doesn’t necessitate long periods of soaking your feet.
In addition, another benefit of essential oils, if you are scientifically inclined is that as these compounds grow in popularity studies are being done that prove their effectiveness, often equivalent to more traditional pharmaceutical options.
In the end, you should choose whatever treatment fits your budget, lifestyle and health goals and remember there are a lot more options than just that stinky cream hidden away next to the bunion pads and plantar wart treatments at your local pharmacy.