When we speak of fungal infections, it’s important to understand that fungus is always present on the skin. Normally, it doesn’t cause any problems. When your system is out of balance or you suffer a trauma or stress, fungus (tinea) may overgrow and cause athlete’s foot, ringworm and fungal infection under the nails.
In this article, we will discuss the causes of athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) and toenail fungus (onycomycosis) and suggest some wise methods of prevention and treatment.
You will also learn:
- What is the most effective treatment for toenail fungus?
- How do you get rid of toenail fungus?
- What does a fungal infection of the toenail look like?
Read on to learn more.
What is Athlete’s foot?
When fungus overgrows on the soles of the feet and between the toes, the result is athlete’s foot. This condition is most common among teens and young adults, but in truth most people have a touch of tinea pedis. Many have it without knowing it.
Symptoms can range from fairly nonexistent to severe and include:
- Stinging & burning sensations
- Blistering & broken skin
- Mild to severe itching
- White, scaly skin
- Unpleasant smell
- Inflamed skin
Athlete’s foot is very contagious, and it is important to take positive, proactive steps to prevent spreading it or contracting it. Here are a few precautions everyone should heed:
- Don’t wear the same shoes day after day: instead, alternate your footwear so that each of your pairs of shoes has a chance to air.
- Use anti-fungal preparations (powders, sprays and creams) to reduce and/or prevent the development of fungus.
- If you live in a very hot, humid climate, change your socks as often as necessary to keep your feet dry.
- Wash your feet daily and give them a bit of time in the fresh air and sunshine.
- Don’t go barefoot – especially in locker rooms and other damp, warm areas.
- Wear flip flops in the locker room and around the pool at your gym.
- Dry your feet thoroughly after bathing, showering or swimming.
- Don’t scratch your feet, no matter how much they itch.
- Don’t share personal care items such as towels.
- Don’t share socks and shoes.
- Wear clean socks every day.
Understand that fungal infections can break out anywhere on the body, so you should wash your hands frequently and bathe or shower daily to prevent their having a chance to get established. This is especially true if you work out at a gym or frequent some other place that tends to be hot, humid and sweaty.
Fungal infections are easily spread by contact with exercise equipment in gyms, so be sure to clean up after working out even if you have kept your socks and shoes on the whole time.
Good foot care can help you prevent Athlete’s foot
In addition to keeping your feet clean and dry, be sure to pay close attention to your pedicure. Keep your toenails properly trimmed (not to short, not too long). Scrub them with a soft brush when you bathe or shower. Treat yourself to a foot soak with an anti-fungal agent such as vinegar, peroxide or one of many anti-fungal essential oils added.
Wear sandals whenever appropriate to allow your feet and toenails plenty of exposure to fresh air. Choose closed shoes that are made of breathable material such as canvas or natural leather with perforations over the toe box.
Wear socks that soak up sweat and keep your feet dry. For some people, natural cotton is the best choice. For others, synthetic materials that are especially designed to wick moisture away from the skin are preferable. This is a matter of personal choice. Try both and see which you like best.
10 pampering treatments to prevent and/or eliminate Athlete’s foot
When you take good care of your feet and practice proper hygiene habits, you are unlikely to develop athlete’s foot. Caring for your feet can be fun and luxurious. Try some of these 10 pampering and effective treatments:
- Soak your feet for ten minutes in a warm foot bath with 2/3rds of a teaspoon of Tea Tree Oil. After ten minutes, dry your feet thoroughly and massage them with a mixture of Sesame oil, Neem oil, olive oil or coconut oil with a few drops of tea tree oil added. All of these types of oil have natural anti-fungal properties. You can use tea tree oil undiluted on very itchy areas.
- Add a handful of oregano leaves to your foot soak. Oregano has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Oil of oregano is an excellent essential oil for use as a direct treatment for patches of athlete’s foot and other skin conditions.
- Ginger is also an excellent, natural anti-fungal substance. You can chop up a bit of fresh ginger root to add to your foot bath.
- Add a half cup of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and a couple of tablespoons of Himalayan Crystal Salt to your foot bath. Both of these ingredients are strongly anti-fungal. Soak for ten minutes and dry your feet thoroughly.
- Make an ACV & Himalayan Crystal Salt solution to spray inside your shoes. After spraying, leave your shoes out in a hot, dry area (e.g. in the sun or by the fireside) to dry thoroughly before wearing again.
- Spray your ACV & salt solution directly on your feet after showering or bathing to deter the development of fungus.
- Add garlic to your diet. Garlic is naturally anti-fungal and will help eliminate fungus systemically.
- Use an anti-fungal foot powder or spray on your feet and in your shoes. Alternately, simply sprinkle your feet with baking soda and/or cornstarch. Baking soda neutralises odour and is anti-fungal, and cornstarch absorbs moisture to keep your feet dry.
- Colloidal Silver also has anti-fungal properties and makes a good foot spray. Apply it at night before bedtime for best results.
- Add a pint of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a full gallon of warm water and soak your feet for about half an hour. Don’t rinse. Blow dry your feet thoroughly.
What about toenail infections?
If you ignore your athlete’s foot problem, it will only get worse by insinuating itself under your toenails. If you have diabetes or a circulatory problem, you are more likely to develop toenail fungus. Other conditions that may contribute to the development of nail fungus include, hot, humid climate and poor foot care.
If fungus spread to your nails, you will soon see the nail begin to thicken and discolor. Your nails may peel or even begin lifting and separating from the nail bed. The skin underneath is sure to be quite inflamed and painful.
Generally speaking, treating assiduously with the same treatments you would use for athlete’s foot can help you get the condition under control. It’s important to understand that once fungus develops under the nail, it can take a long time to eradicate it.
You may need to see your doctor and get a prescription for anti-fungal medications. He or she may also refer you to a dermatologist for laser treatments, which can be very effective in completely eliminating nail fungus.
Just as with athlete’s foot, you can prevent the development of nail fungus by taking good care of your feet and nails. Generally speaking, following the care practices suggested for avoiding athlete’s foot will also help you avoid nail fungus.
At-home remedies for nail fungus
Just as with athlete’s foot, nail fungus may be successfully treated (or at least held at bay) with natural anti-fungal solutions. All of the soaks and treatments suggested for athlete’s foot are helpful.
Additionally, treating the nail directly with full strength ACV and/or anti-fungal essential oils can be effective. Both tea tree oil and oil of oregano are well-known for their anti-fungal properties. Others you might like to try include lavender and frankincense.
The real trick to combating nail fungus is to continue treatment diligently, once or twice daily for at least six months. Even then, you may think the fungus is gone only to have it return a few days after you cease treatment.
Overall lifestyle changes may be necessary
Remember that fungus is always present. It only takes hold when it finds a weakness. For this reason, it’s wise to develop an overall healthy, anti-fungal lifestyle that includes use of anti-fungal personal care products and adopting a natural, anti-fungal diet.
Generally speaking, a whole foods diet that consists mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables and includes lots of fresh, filtered water can be helpful. Try to steer clear of simple carbohydrates, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Avoid processed foods, chemicals and artificial coloring.
Add garlic, onions ACV and a wide variety of fresh herbs and spices to your diet as most have natural anti-fungal properties. Adding herbal teas to your daily lifestyle is a great way to help keep fungal infections under control.