My son is in high school and is playing football. With the two-a-day practices and showering in locker rooms, he has developed a red itchy rash between the last three toes on his left foot and a similar rash between the fourth and fifth toes on his right foot. He says that it is very itchy. His coach told him it was athlete’s foot, and he should get some cream at the drug store to treat it. He said it is common for athletes to get athlete’s foot, and there was no reason to see a doctor. Should the football coach stick to coaching football rather than giving medical advice?
Athlete’s foot is a popular term used to describe a fungus infection of the feet. Although one can try over-the-counter, anti-fungal medications for scaly, itchy rashes between the toes, not all rashes between toes are fungal.
If one wants to be precise and scientific about a foot rash, a physician, especially a dermatologist, can do a microscopic exam of the peeling skin between the toes to identify the cause. Fungi grow the best in warm, moist areas, which makes between the toes and in the groin areas prime locations in athletes. Feet that are enclosed in socks and shoes suffer from increased sweating during physical activity and can encourage the growth of fungus on other areas of the foot.
As a rule, it is felt that infections are acquired from other people, however, with fungal infections this is not always the case. Experimental efforts to deliberately infect healthy skin have failed, and a husband and wife may live together for years with only one partner having a fungus infection of the foot or toenail. The importance of susceptibility of the skin and exposure to infected surfaces plays an important part in one’s ability to acquire a fungal foot infection.
It is important to distinguish between fungal infections of the foot and conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and allergic reactions to shoes or laundry products for athletic clothes. Initial treatment of properly diagnosed fungal infections of the feet, i.e., athlete’s foot, requires treatment of the fungus and elimination of the warm, moist environment that promotes fungal foot infections. Showers cause the skin on the feet to become moist. A towel does not adequately dry the skin of the web spaces between the toes. About 10 minutes of air drying or the use of a blow dryer on a cool temperature setting is required.
Many anti-fungal medications are available over-the-counter for clear cut, uncomplicated fungal toe infections. With severe or unresponsive fungal foot infections, oral medications may be indicated and require a doctor’s prescription. Remember, an accurate diagnosis is critical for effective treatment and results.