The best treatment for tinea pedis, also known as athlete’s foot is to not get tinea pedis in the first place. Problem solved. But…. that doesn’t help the thousands of Melbournians who have tinea pedis right now!
To start with we will discuss prevention of tinea pedis and then, later on, get into the tinea pedis treatment for those few unlucky enough to have not read this sooner.
What is tinea pedis or athlete’s foot?
Tinea pedis is an overgrowth of certain fungal elements that usually live harmoniously on our skin. There are three main culprits:
- Trichophyton rubrum
- Epidermophyton floccusum
- Trichophyton mentagrophytes
When our immune system is working well and our skin is neither too moist or too dry we keep these bugs in check and don’t allow any overgrowth.
If we don’t manage this and one or more of the tinea pedis culprits start to have their ideal conditions to thrive, we get a full-blown tinea pedis colonisation.
This can lead to redness, cracks, blisters, vesicles, itchy-ness and odour. Sometimes we get all of them, sometimes only one or two.
How to prevent tinea pedis or athlete’s foot?
It’s about maintaining as healthy a skin barrier as possible. If your skin is dry, moisturise. If it’s moist, dry it with improved towel use post bathing (between ALL of your toes!) or even deodorants.
Also, we need to ensure that our skin has a protective acid barrier with a pH (remember that scale from high school chemistry?) of 5.5. Most soaps and washes we use are alkaline and this can lead to increased fungal growth after use. By changing to a soap-free wash like QV, Alphakeri or Cetaphil you will maintain an acidic barrier on your skin. This, in turn, reduces how hard your skin has to work and impedes the ability of the fungal spores to procreate.
Another way to reduce your chance of getting tinea pedis is to avoid areas where there are a lot of tinea spores present. These are places where there are foot traffic and standing water. Communal showers in gyms and pools are prime tinea pedis hot spots.
That’s great but I have tinea pedis. What is the best treatment for my tinea pedis or Athlete’s Foot?
The best treatment is to combine your prevention advice above with the right medicament for killing off the tinea pedis fungal spores.
In Melbourne, we are lucky to have ready access to a topical medicament over the counter called terbinafine. This medicine comes under the brand names of Solveasy or Lamisil and in creams, ointments, sprays and a film solution.
To decide which version to use you need to work out if your tinea pedis is too moist or too dry. If your skin is quite dry and the tinea pedis affects the sole of your foot, a cream is often the best way to get the medicine into the skin and keep it there.
If your tinea pedis is more likely due to too much moisture, maybe it’s a bit white and rubbery like between your toes then the spray is the better delivery. The spray can be easy to get between toes and dries out the skin.
The biggest mistake people make when treating their tinea pedis or athlete’s foot is to stop treating after a couple of days as the tinea pedis symptoms start to improve. This is a big no-no as the fungus starts dropping spores as it dies off which sit on the skin for a couple of days (days that you’re not applying the medicaments) and then germinate. Voila, the tinea pedis is back.
The packets of the various tinea pedis creams and sprays have this taken into account. You should use the medicament as directed on the packet or at least a full week after your symptoms have resolved.
Other things to consider when treating tinea pedis
The fungal germs are not just living on your feet, they will be in your socks and shoes as well. To kill the bugs in your shoes, pull the liners or orthotics out and leave them in the sun (shoe and shoe liner or orthotic) for at least an hour.
With your socks, you can get an in wash laundry product which kills the fungal spores as well. The two main brands are Dettol and Canestan and these can be purchased at most supermarkets.
This guide should see you through any fungal outbreak but there are conditions that mirror the symptoms of tinea pedis and need expert podiatrists to diagnose and assist treating. If you’re having any symptoms of tinea pedis or Athlete’s Foot and thinking about treatments, be sure to book in with our Podiatrist’s in Melbourne, Pascoe Vale or Emerald.