One in five adults in Switzerland has had athlete’s foot at some time, with men affected more often than women. Athlete’s foot is the result of a fungal infection affecting keratin proteins in the skin, hair and nails. It tends to gather between the toes, but the fungus can cause unpleasant blisters, rashes and scales on the arches of the feet as well. It can also lead to thicker calluses around the heel.
Thrives in damp conditions
Athlete’s foot thrives in damp, warm surroundings. This means you’re more at risk if you use a swimming pool, sauna or public showers a lot. All it takes is minor skin wounds for the fungus to get into your body and spread. Sweaty feet, synthetic shoes or not drying your feet properly lead to dampness in your shoes, which also helps the infection spread. The gap between the fourth and fifth toe is often affected, as it’s particularly narrow.
Make sure your feet are dry
In the early stages of athlete’s foot you’ll experience itching and stinging and your skin will get red. If the infection spreads you may suffer inflammation, or weeping or scaly skin. People with a weakened immune system are particularly prone to athlete’s foot. Older people and people with diabetes or circulation problems are also known to suffer more.
To avoid the problem you should keep your feet as dry as possible. Drying your feet thoroughly after a shower and wearing well ventilated shoes can help.
Athlete’s foot isn’t dangerous provided you treat it quickly and systematically. But left untreated the skin wound can open the way to harmful viruses and bacteria. If you also have cracked or damaged toenails you’re at risk of nail infection as well.
If you get athlete’s foot, anti-fungal ointments, tinctures, sprays or nail polish – all available from a chemist or non-dispensing pharmacy – can help. Ask for their advice or call the sante24 health advice line. It’s important to keep treating the athlete’s foot until it’s completely gone. Otherwise the fungus can easily spread again. It’s also worth trying appropriate detergents and shoe sprays that kill spores of the fungus that might be lurking in shoes or socks.