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Athlete’s Foot

Athlete's foot is a skin disease caused by a fungus, typically occurring between the toes but may spread to the sole and sides of the foot in severe cases. The fungus can attack the skin of the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment which encourages fungal growth.

The fungus spreads from warm damp breeding grounds such as communal showers and locker rooms, hence the name. The fungal spores are persist ant and the infection may be spread via contaminated bedding or clothing to other parts of the body and even other people.

The infection cannot be controlled by the immune system as it is essentially external to the body, and active treatment is essential


The main symptoms of athlete's foot are dry itchy skin, peeling and scaling, and in severe cases, soreness, blisters and cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing further pain and inflammation. Athlete's foot may spread to the the toenails (see Nail Fungus) and can also spread to other parts of the body, notably the groin and underarms, by those who scratch the infection and then touch themselves elsewhere.


There are a host of medications available both over the counter or through prescription. As well as topical ointments, powders and gels these may include system treatments such a griseofulvin, an antibiotic. Treatments of these types can be effective but are slow, and infections tend to return eventually.

Alternative treatment

There is at least one natural treatment that is at least as effective as conventional medications. This is tea tree oil - an essential oil derived from an Australian plant, the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). It is widely obtainable from health shops, online or even from aromatherapy suppliers.

To use it for athlete’s foot, obtain a lanolin-based skin care cream and transfer about 20 grams to a smaller container. Add about 6 grams of tea tree oil and shake vigorously to emulsify the mixture. Apply this generously two or three times a day, shaking before use (it will probably sting a little if the skin is cracked).

Continue for as long as necessary, only stopping if you have any obviously undesirable side effects such as dermatitis (rare). This treatment is effective in about 70% of cases within a month, although it can take longer. This is comparable with the best of conventional treatments. It might be beneficial to follow each tea tree oil treatment with zinc undecenoate powder (Mycil), another very effective anti-fungal treatment.

Prevention of recurrence

It is not easy to prevent athlete's foot returning after treatment because it is usually contracted in dressing rooms, showers, and swimming pool locker rooms where bare feet come in contact with the fungus. However, you can do much to prevent re-infection by practicing good foot hygiene. Daily washing of the feet with tea tree oil soap and water; drying carefully, especially between the toes; and changing shoes and socks regularly to decrease moisture, will help prevent the fungus from infecting the feet. Also helpful is daily use of a quality foot powder or the application of tea tree oil preparations.



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