Despite the name, athlete's foot can happen to anyone. It is a common fungal infection that most people get from walking barefoot in moist public places like a swimming pool deck or locker room. Athlete's foot can result in flaky skin, cracking and itchiness on the soles of the foot and between the toes. "If you think you have athlete's foot, consider using an anti-fungal cream you can buy at your drugstore," said dermatologist Jeffrey V. Benabio, MD, FAAD, Kaiser Permanente, San Diego.
Dr. Benabio recommends the following precautions for reducing your chance of catching athlete's foot:
1. Wear shower shoes, flip flops, or sandals when walking around pools, gyms, shower or locker areas, and hotel rooms. The fungus that causes athlete's foot may be on the floor. Even when taking a shower in a gym, it is important to wear shower shoes or flip flops.
2. Even if you have not gone barefoot in public areas, keep your feet dry. This fungus thrives in warm, moist areas such as the one created inside hot, sweaty shoes. Wearing sandals or flip flops helps when it's hot outside. Shoes that are made from synthetic materials like plastic and rubber are more likely to cause sweating.
3. Wash your feet every day with soap and completely dry them after washing.
4. Wear socks made of natural fabrics or fabrics that dry quickly or wick moisture away from the skin. Also, be sure to change your socks every day and more often when your socks get wet.
5. Alternate what shoes you wear each day, if possible, to ensure shoes are dry when they are put on.
6. If you live with someone who has athlete's foot, don't share towels, linens or shoes. Wear shoes in areas where infected feet have been.
"If your athlete's foot is not improving or is worsening, see a board-certified dermatologist," said Dr. Benabio. "A dermatologist can make sure what you have is really athlete's foot and prescribe effective treatment."
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