Thumbnail image of: Athlete's Foot: Illustration

Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis): Teen Version

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a fungus infection that causes a scaly, cracked rash between the toes. It mainly occurs in adolescents and adults.

The rash may:

  • Itch and burn
  • Become raw and weepy when scratched
  • Spread to the instep
  • Cause an unpleasant odor

What causes athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus that grows best on warm, damp skin.

How long does it last?

With proper treatment, athlete’s foot usually clears in 1 to 2 weeks.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Antifungal cream

    Buy Lotrimin, Tinactin, or Micatin cream at your drugstore. You won’t need a prescription.

    First, rinse your feet in plain water or water with a little white vinegar added. Dry your feet carefully, especially between the toes. Then apply the cream to the rash and well beyond its borders twice a day. Continue applying the antifungal cream for several weeks, or for at least 7 days after the rash seems to have cleared. Successful treatment often takes 3 or 4 weeks.

  • Dryness

    Athlete’s foot improves dramatically if the feet are kept dry. It helps to go barefoot or wear sandals or thongs as much as possible. Wear shoes that allow the feet to breathe. Wear cotton socks because the cotton absorbs sweat and keeps the feet dry. Change socks twice a day. Dry the feet thoroughly after baths and showers.

  • Foot odor

    The feet often stop smelling bad when the athlete’s foot improves. Rinsing your feet and changing socks twice a day are essential. If that doesn’t work, rinse the feet in a basin of warm water containing 1 ounce of vinegar. If odor is still a problem, wash your tennis shoes in the washing machine with some soap and bleach.

  • Avoid scratching

    Scratching infected feet will delay healing.

  • Contagiousness

    The condition is not easily passed from person to person but is thought to be spread by direct contact with contaminated surfaces such as locker room or bathroom floors. The fungus won’t grow on dry, normal skin. Wear thongs or sandals in the locker room. Athlete’s foot can cause jock itch if a towel used to dry the feet is then used to dry the groin area.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • It looks infected (yellow pus, spreading redness, red streaks).
  • The athlete’s foot is not improved in 1 week.
  • It is not completely cured after using this treatment for 2 weeks.
  • The feet are very painful.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-22
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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