It's officially 'sweat season', and with that comes an uncomfortable visitor that most men know all too well, athlete's foot. It's hot & humid outside, you're spending more time outdoors, and thus, you're sweating. For lots of guys, that means that mystery itch on your feet and in between your toes may be back. An interesting, overlooked tidbit is that athlete's foot can lead to toenail fungus, and that toenail fungus can lead to athlete's foot. Here we'll look at causes, prevention, and elimination techniques to consider.
Causes of Foot Fungus and Athlete's Foot
Tinea is the fungus that causes athlete's foot. Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments (which is why so many guys deal with these issues during summertime). You can come into contact with this fungus on bathroom floors, locker rooms, and around swimming pools. If you're in places like these, you may be at a higher risk for contracting this fungus. Other risk factors can include:
- Having sweaty feet.
- Re-wearing dirty socks.
- Wearing cotton socks.
- Wearing old shoes, or shoes that are too tight.
- Not disinfecting nail clippers.
There are other factors at play. Age can play a role, as the older you get, the more brittle your nails are. If your nails become so brittle they begin cracking, the fungus can easily slide it's way beneath your toenails and thrive. While foot fungus isn't necessarily a serious condition, it can be difficult to get rid of, but let's be honest - It's just plain gross. Preventing the itching, burning, and unsightliness of these fungi is the only way to ensure you don't catch them.
Preventing Athlete's Foot and Foot Fungus
It's not rocket science. Keep those feet clean and dry, and you should be able to steer clear of tinea. Step number one - don't neglect your feet in the shower. Get in between those toes with soap, and most importantly, make sure to thoroughly dry your feet out before putting on socks or shoes. Ideally, keeping your shoes off is the best way to stay dry. That's not always an option, so utilize sandals, slides, or breathable shoes, anything that'll keep moisture levels at a minimum. If you do have to wear shoes, try to stick to socks that are made of polyester, olefin, or some type of blend. Cotton is going to absorb all that moisture and keep your feet in a warm, wet environment.
It goes without saying, but it also needs to be said: Don't share socks, towels, or shoes with other people. While you're at it, don't walk barefoot in public places. If your socks get wet, change them. Keep an extra pair at work, in the car, or in your bag to ensure you always have a clean, fresh pair at your disposal. You can also utilize antifungal powders in your socks and shoes to keep fungi away. There are also different sprays and sanitizers you can use in and on your shoes to keep them cleaner. These are especially important on your workout sneakers, running shoes, or boots.
Getting Rid of Athlete's Foot or Foot Fungus
Those who have had it know - It's not that easy. Getting rid of it means following the prevention guidelines above. If you've got it in your toenails, you'll know. Your toenails will turn a whitish or yellowish color, and may become a bit brittle. If this is going on, make sure to keep your toenails neat and short, and DISINFECT YOUR CLIPPERS. Toenail fungus can spread from one nail to another by using unclean clippers.
You'll need to start to apply a topical OTC medication to mitigate the spread of the fungi. There are lots of different antifungals out there, including: Lamisil, Lotrimin, and Tinactin. If these don't work, see a podiatrist. A podiatrist will remove the affected nails (if necessary), and can also prescribe stronger topical medications, as well as oral antifungals. Stay regimented, the itching and redness of your athlete's foot can start to improve within days, but getting rid of it altogether can take about a month. For those of you with toenail fungus, bad news - Some cases can take over a year to completely cure.
It seems like people make a lot of claims about apple cider vinegar, but let's state a fact here: There is no reliable medical study out there stating that apple cider vinegar can cure athlete's foot or toenail fungus. That said, some people have reported a reduction in symptoms of athlete's foot using apple cider vinegar, so by all means, try it! Here's how:
- Get an apple cider vinegar that's got "the mother". Learn about vinegar mothers.
- Get a big bowl, and fill it with 1 part vinegar to 1 part water.
- Rinse off your affected foot with soap and water, and pat dry with a towel (or air dry).
- Soak your foot (or feet) in the mixture for about 20 minutes.
- Remove your foot and dry it thoroughly.
- To mitigate the effects of the acid in the vinegar, use a cooling moisturizer after your foot soak.
The fungus can't continue to grow if you don't provide it with the ideal environment. So, use a hairdryer on your feet after swimming or showering to make sure your feet are perfectly dry. When done, spread some talcum powder on them to make sure they remain dry.
Learn From Your Foot Care Mishaps
Most guys have to deal with these issues at some point or other in their lives. Learn from your mistakes, and don't repeat them. Stick to your foot care routine, especially during the warmer months. If you're an athlete or gym rat, stash clean socks away so that your feet aren't bathing in your own sweat. Use powders for prevention, and OTC options for elimination. If you're concerned the fungus is spreading or not going away, see a doctor. Likewise, if you have a condition like diabetes or a suppressed immune system, see a doctor immediately, as your extremities may be at further risk of infection.