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Health Conditions

General Description

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is one of the most common fungal infections. Unlike body and scalp ringworm, this disorder is generally an ailment of adult life. You don’t have to be an athlete to get athletes foot, but it sure helps. Fungi love sweaty feet, and they thrive on moist shower floors.  A fungal infection of the feet is characterized by itching, redness, and scaling. Severe cases may be accompanied by blisters. The condition most commonly occurs between the toes and may spread to the soles.

Causes

Athlete's foot, that reddish, crackled, flaky skin between toes, is caused by a fungus, and thrives in warm, moist places. The condition is highly contagious, and is often contracted by contact with infected skin particles in a locker room, shower, around public swimming pools or other similar public areas. You may use one of the traditional powders or creams found at the pharmacy, or try one of the remedies listed below.

Medical Treatments

Prevention and treatment of athlete’s foot entail minimizing excess heat and perspiration. Shoes and light socks that permit ventilation are recommended. Leather shoes and sandals are the best; plastic shoes and sneakers the worst. The feet should be thoroughly dried after bathing and then coated with a drying powder (talcum, Zeasorb, Desenex) before socks are put on. Mild to moderate cases can be controlled with antifungal creams such as Micatin, Lotromin and Lamisil; more severe cases may require oral antifungal agents.

Many OTC medications used to treat athlete's foot just weaken it, then rely on the body's immune system to kill it. One study, however, found that Terbinafine ointment, a prescription drug sold as Lamisil, apparently destroys the fungus in 80% of users.

Prevention

One of the most important things to do to combat athlete's foot is to keep the feet dry at all times. The fungus needs moisture to grow. After drying your feet, scrape away the loose skin to allow any medication to penetrate the infected area. See Sweaty Hands in our Folk Remedies section for more suggestions.

• You may want to use medicated powder, (do not use cornstarch), or baking soda in your shoes and socks to keep your feet dry.

• Wear absorbent socks, preferably cotton, and wash them in hot water with bleach.

• Keep your shoes well ventilated, and give them ample time to dry before wearing again.

• Open-toed sandals are good to wear as they allow the feet to dry.

• To avoid reinfection, wipe white vinegar or spray a disinfectant on the inside of the shoes.

• Antiperspirants may also be used on your feet to keep down the sweating.

• Dry your feet thoroughly after a shower either with a towel or hair dryer.

• After showering, dry your feet, then spray them with rubbing alcohol dispensed from a pump-spray bottle; then either let them air dry or dry them with a towel or hair dryer. The alcohol dissolves the water and helps dry the skin. This will reduce the risk of attracting the fungus that causes athlete's foot.

• Sometimes people who have had antibiotics contract athlete's foot. The antibiotics can compromise the immune system by killing the good bacteria with the bad, leaving the person susceptible to infection. Without the good bacteria, the intestines can't synthesize the B vitamins which help enhance the immune system. To remedy this situation, eat several servings of yogurt with live cultures daily and take a high dosage of the B vitamins to rebuild your flora and help fight infection.

Supplements

Since athlete's foot is a fungus infection, we suggest boosting your immune system with the following supplements:

Acidophilus Take yogurt with live cultures or acidophilus capsules.

Beta Carotene 25,000 IU of beta carotene.

Garlic To boost the immune system and ward off fungal infections, take 6-8 capsules of garlic daily.

Vitamin B-complex Take tablets daily.

Vitamin C Take 500-3,000 mg of vitamin C in divided doses.

Vitamin D and E Take 400 IU each of vitamins D and E.

Zinc Take 15-50 mg of zinc. More than 15 mg of zinc should not be taken for more than a week or so without medical supervision as it may interfere with absorption of other minerals.

Remedies

Folk

Alcohol, rubbing Diluted rubbing alcohol can be dabbed on the affected area with cotton balls and allowed to dry.

Aloe vera Apply aloe vera gel twice daily.

Apple cider vinegar Soak your feet in a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water for ten minutes daily up to ten days or until symptoms disappear. This will relieve the itching and peeling of athlete's foot.

•  Soak a cotton ball in vinegar, coat the fungus and let dry. Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties.

Baking soda Soak the feet in a solution of baking soda and water for about 30 minutes daily. This will change the pH of the skin. Also sprinkle baking soda on the feet and in your shoes and socks. It will soak up some of the perspiration and help neutralize the skin at the same time.

Bleach Make a solution of two tablespoons up to half a cup of laundry bleach to a gallon of warm water and soak your feet for 10-15 minutes twice a day. This should clear up athlete's foot in a week or ten days.

Boric acid Wash the feet in a mild solution of boric acid.

Chaparral An effective herbal remedy uses chaparral. Mix six tablespoons of dried chaparral to one quart of boiling cheap whiskey or wine; reduce and simmer for 20 minutes; remove and steep for 8 hours. DO NOT use aluminum cookware! Soak your feet in this solution.

Cinnamon Another kitchen medicinal remedy uses cinnamon. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add 8-10 broken sticks of cinnamon, reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes; remove and steep, covered, for 45 minutes. Use as a foot bath. Cinnamon effectively combats both yeast and fungal infections.

DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) This is the most effective fungicide for athlete's foot. Use twice daily at half strength or stronger.

Garlic One method is to rub a clove of raw garlic on the fungus. A second method is to put some freshly crushed garlic on the affected area and leave it on for half an hour; wash with water. Do this once a day for a week and the athlete's foot should be gone. If the garlic burns, remove, wash with water and try again with diluted garlic juice. You may have to play around with this remedy to get the potency that is right for you. Garlic is an excellent antibiotic, and studies have shown that its compounds can kill the fungus that causes athlete's foot.

• Soak your feet in a basin of warm water to which you have added some rubbing alcohol and several cloves of peeled, crushed garlic.

Garlic powder Dust your feet twice daily with garlic powder or wash with garlic juice.

Ginger is a strong antifungal. Boil a cup of water, add one ounce of chopped fresh ginger, and simmer for twenty minutes. Let it cool and apply to your feet twice a day.

Goldenseal/thyme Make an herbal tea foot bath of goldenseal and thyme, or a half and half mixture of thyme and chamomile teas. Soak once a day.

Grapefruit seed extract This extract is a powerful all-around antimicrobial product and is an excellent disinfectant. Make a solution of 100 drops in two ounces of water and apply to the affected areas with a cotton ball two or three times a day. 

Honey Raw honey rubbed on the infected areas before bedtime and left overnight has also been found to be effective. Cover the feet with an old sock.

Jewelweed Rub juice from this plant, also known as impatiens or touch-me-not, on the infected area.

Lavender/myrrh oil combination has anti-fungal properties, and may be helpful with dry and cracked skin associated with athlete's foot. This combination can be found in commercial remedies, or you may add 10 drops of each to 1/4 cup of aloe vera juice and apply three times daily.

Molkosan, a product derived from concentrated whey, the by-product of cheese manufacture, has been used effectively against fungal infections. The suggested use is to soak an absorbent cotton pad or cloth in Molkosan, attach it to the affected area, and leave it on overnight. Also recommended is an African plant remedy, Spilanthes, alternated with Molkosan. Bioforce Cream is recommended for use during the day. The good results may be from the lactic acid and lactic enzymes.

Neem oil Neem (Azadirachta indica) is valued in Ayurvedic medicine for its varied healing properties due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral capabilities. A cousin of mahogany, neem is a tropical evergreen tree native to India and Myanmar. Over 60 medicinal uses have been documented for neem so far - such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, dandruff, athlete's foot, ulcers, ringworm, and gingivitis, to name a few. For athlete's foot, mix 1 tablespoon of neem oil with 1/2 cup of a carrier oil, such as olive or almond, and apply to the affected area twice a day. If you have sensitive skin or if irritation develops, dilute the neem with more of the carrier oil.

Onion Juice Apply onion juice twice daily.

Salt A mixture of two teaspoons of salt to a pint of warm water is another good soaking solution. Soak your feet for 10-15 minutes and dry thoroughly. The salt kills the fungus and reduces perspiration.

Tea tree oil derived from the leaves of the native Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree, contains antiseptic compounds that are a very effective skin disinfectant. Depending on severity, use 5-15% solutions daily, diluting the tea tree oil with olive oil. Rubbing some on the affected area with a cotton ball several times a day for three to five days should eliminate the problem. 

Undesine ointment Apply this ointment daily. You can usually find it wherever herbs and natural remedies are sold.

Vinegar, apple cider Try rubbing it on the affected area with cotton balls. Let dry for 30 minutes. Rinse off. It's very effective. Another apple cider remedy is similar to the white vinegar one mentioned below: put a cup of vinegar in several quarts of very warm water and soak the foot for 15-20 minutes; repeat twice a day. This remedy will also kill fungus that has gotten under the toenails. Vinegar is effective because it makes the pH slightly more acidic.

Vinegar, white If you don't like the idea of bleach, try adding half a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water, and soak for 10-15 minutes twice a day. Let your feet air dry. The acidity of the vinegar will kill the fungus.

Vitamin E Apply Vitamin E twice daily.

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