by Miguel Cunha, DPM, special to SportsMD.com
Oftentimes, people make the mistake of assuming that dry or scaly heels are a result of the weather (in the winter) or their shoe selection (in the summer). No matter how much lotion they continue to apply through the seasons, they can never solve this issue because they aren’t addressing the real cause: Athlete’s Foot.
Athlete’s Foot, also commonly referred to as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the foot that develops commonly on the soles of the feet and in between the toes. It usually produces itchy, dry, scaling skin, and in more severe cases, inflammation, cracks, and blisters may form.
This condition is caused by a group of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes that feed on dead skin and nails and is closely related to other fungal infections, including ringworm and jock itch. These microscopic organisms live in dark, warm, and moist environments. Damp socks and the insides of shoes provide a welcoming environment for fungal growth and infection.
Your child can contract Athlete’s Foot by going barefoot in wet public areas, such as swimming pools or locker rooms.
How to Treat Athlete’s Foot
The good news is, Athlete’s Foot is easily treatable. In its early stages, you can easily treat Athlete’s Foot by putting medicine on your child’s feet for 1 to 6 weeks with over-the-counter medicated powders, creams, sprays, or lotions that are specifically formulated to fight the Athlete’s Foot fungus. In moderate cases, a prescription topical medication may be required. In more severe your child’s doctor may prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication.
Frequently, when organisms first infect the skin they may also infect nails which leads to thickening, discoloration, and brittleness. Ultimately the skin and nails become painful as the skin fissure and cracks and the nail thickens putting more pressure onto the toes. It is important to wash your feet with Dial Antibacterial Hand Soap often. Instead of applying lotion to dry or cracked heels, purchase an over the counter anti-fungal cream such as Lamisil. Apply the ointment and wrap your foot in Saran Wrap to allow the medication to penetrate deep into your foot.
Tea tree oil has gained in popularity and while it may be somewhat effective at reducing the itching, scaling, swelling, and burning of Athlete’s Foot when applied twice daily, it may take up to a several months to see progress and is only 60% effective.
A key part of your child’s treatment is to make sure to follow-up and go to all appointments. If your child is having a problem, make sure to call your doctor.
How to Prevent Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s Foot is contagious and can be spread by contact with an infected person or contact with contaminated surfaces and while most of us reach for the lotion or cortisone to solve these issues, it might not be enough to rid yourself of this infection.
Your child should avoid walking barefoot in public places such as communal bathing facilities and pools, as warm and moist environments harbor fungal organisms. Make sure they wear flip-flops or other shower sandals. They should also wash their feet every day with soap and water and dry them thoroughly, even after they go swimming. Keeping their feet as dry as possible will help prevent Athlete’s Foot – make sure they change their socks frequently if their feet sweat excessively.
Another good idea is to have your child wear leather shoes or sandals, which let air get to their feet. And lastly, when your child gets dressed, have them put socks on before his or her underwear.
Lysol is a great product to help eradicate and prevent Athlete’s Foot. Although it is not a product to be applied directly onto the skin, the use of Lysol helps reduce the presence of germs that commonly infect the feet.
Remember: Athlete’s Foot is something that can be easily treated by your Podiatrist. When dry or scaly feet persist, call to make an appointment to ensure the problem doesn’t escalate.
About Dr. Cunha
Dr. Miguel Cunha, founder of Gotham Footcare and a leading podiatrist in Manhattan, is a highly trained and skilled foot and ankle surgeon with experience treating a wide array of foot and ankle conditions from minor problems to complex reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Cunha takes pride in having a genuine interest in each and every one of his patients while providing them the utmost compassion and exceptional care.