Athlete’s foot? The toes will tell you. A persistent, burning itch between the toes can send you running for relief. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Keep it dry
To discourage fungal growth, dry feet thoroughly after showering or bathing, use foot powders, and change socks frequently
Let your feet see the light
Wear sandals or other open footwear to expose skin to sunlight’s antifungal effects
Try tea tree oil
Apply a 10% herbal concentration in a cream base as a natural alternative to antifungal medications
About This Condition
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the foot that can be caused by a number of different skin
Generally, athlete’s foot does not cause serious problems; however, the disruption of the skin
barrier can be a source of significant infections in people with impaired blood flow to the feet (such as
people with diabetes) or in those with impaired immune systems. Infections of the nails are more difficult to treat than
those affecting only the skin.
Symptoms of athlete’s foot include a persistent, burning itch that often starts between the toes. The skin on the feet may be damp, soft, red, cracked, or peeling; the feet may also show patches of dead skin. The feet often have a strong or unusual smell, and sometimes small blisters occur on the feet.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Keeping the feet dry is very important for preventing and fighting athlete’s foot. After showering or bathing, thorough drying or careful use of a hair dryer is recommended. Light is also an enemy of fungi. People with athlete’s foot should change socks daily to decrease contact with the fungus and should wear sandals occasionally to get sunlight exposure.
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Apply a 10% cream twice per day
Tea tree oil has been traditionally used to treat athlete’s foot. One trial reported that application of a 10% tea tree oil cream reduced symptoms of athlete’s foot just as effectively as drugs and better than placebo, although it did not eliminate the fungus.1
Refer to label instructions
The compound known as ajoene, found in garlic, is an antifungal agent. In a group of 34 people using a 0.4% ajoene cream applied once per day, 79% of them saw complete clearing of athlete’s foot after one week; the rest saw complete clearing within two weeks.2 All participants remained cured three months later. One trial found a 1% ajoene cream to be more effective than the standard topical drug terbinafine for treating athlete’s foot.3 Ajoene cream is not yet available commercially, but topical application of crushed, raw garlic may be a potential alternative application.
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1. Tong MM, Altman PM, Barnetson RS. Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis. Aust J Dermatol 1992;33:145–9.
2. 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 1996;39:393–5.
3. Ledezma E, Marcano K, Jorquera A, et al. Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis: A double-blind and comparative study with terbinafine. J Am Acad Dermatol 2000;43:829–32.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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