Best Athlete’s Foot Treatment

Athlete’s foot is also very contagious. It can easily spread to your hands, especially if you’re scratching at the affected area. This fungus can also infect the area under your nails, which can be more difficult to treat, or the groin area.

Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot

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You may be able to treat athlete’s foot with over-the-counter products and items in your medicine cabinet, including certain oils and talcum powder.

Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal skin infection that typically starts between the toes. It causes a scaly, itchy rash that may have painful or burning sensations. In some cases, people may also experience ulcers or blisters, which can be very painful.

Fortunately, athlete’s foot can be extremely receptive to home treatment. Here are 10 home treatments that are known to be effective.

There are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) treatments available for athlete’s foot. These can come as powders, sprays, ointments, and lotions. Many cases of athlete’s foot respond well to OTC treatments and may never require other options.

You can apply these treatments directly to the affected area and use them for at least 1 week after symptoms resolve to prevent the infection from immediately returning.

Hydrogen peroxide can effectively kill the fungus on the surface level of the foot, as well as any surface bacteria that could cause an infection.

Pour hydrogen peroxide directly onto the affected area. Note that it may sting, and it should bubble, especially if you have open wounds. Do this twice daily until the infection subsides.

Tea tree oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which is part of the reason it’s commonly used to treat many fungal infections (including both ringworm and candidiasis).

One 2002 study found that applying tea tree oil daily could treat both the symptoms of athlete’s foot and the fungus that causes it within a few weeks.

To treat athlete’s foot, mix a carrier oil like warm coconut oil with tea tree oil for a concentration of 25 to 50 percent tea tree oil. Apply it to the affected area two times a day.

Both neem oil and neem leaf extracts have incredible antifungal capabilities that can help fight athlete’s foot. You can apply the neem oil (or extract) directly to the affected area two to three times a day, massaging it into the skin. This can also be helpful for treating infections that develop under the toenails.

Much like hydrogen peroxide, many families will have rubbing alcohol on hand to clean cuts. Like hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol can help kill off the fungus that’s on the surface level of the skin.

You can apply it directly to the affected area or soak your feet in a footbath of 70 percent rubbing alcohol and 30 percent water for 30 minutes.

Garlic may have a strong scent, but it can be an effective topical treatment for athlete’s foot. One older study even found that a derivative of garlic, alone, resulted in a complete cure in 79 percent of participants after just 7 days.

To use garlic to treat athlete’s foot, crush four to five cloves of garlic. Once smashed, rub them over the affected area. Do this twice daily.

Sea salt has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties , making it a great natural treatment for athlete’s foot and any complications it could cause. It may actually inhibit the growth and spread of athlete’s foot.

Some treatments involve mixing sea salt with other natural treatments, like vinegar, to make a sort of paste. The most effective way to use this treatment may be to dissolve a cup of sea salt into a warm foot bath. Soak your feet for at least 20 minutes. Dry your feet thoroughly when you’re finished soaking.

Talcum powder, corn starch, or baby powder work to treat athlete’s foot by keeping the affected area dry and clean. This makes it difficult for the fungus to thrive and spread by keeping sweat and moisture under control.

To use this treatment, apply talcum powder (or antifungal powder) directly to the dried, affected area every time before putting on socks. Be careful not to inhale talcum powder.

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Not only can Vicks VapoRub reduce symptoms from a bad cough, it can help treat athlete’s foot. This may be because of its use of eucalyptus oil and menthol, both of which have antifungal properties

Rub Vicks on the affected area every night, massaging it into the foot. Do this every night for at least a month, or up until a week after the infection has disappeared.

It’s important to prevent athlete’s foot. Fungus can grow in dark, moist areas, making your feet an ideal place for athlete’s feet to develop. If you have athlete’s foot (or even if you just want to prevent it), keep your feet as dry and clean as possible.

Change your socks regularly. As soon as you’re done working out, clean your feet and put on a fresh pair of socks. Dry the space between your toes. Don’t go barefoot in public pool or gym areas.

You should also use shoes that are well ventilated and allow your feet to breathe to help athlete’s foot resolve more quickly.

If untreated, athlete’s foot can result in a bacterial infection if skin is broken. This can happen due to scratching or when blisters pop or ulcers become infected. Any type of infection can be very serious and requires prompt treatment.

Athlete’s foot is also very contagious. It can easily spread to your hands, especially if you’re scratching at the affected area. This fungus can also infect the area under your nails, which can be more difficult to treat, or the groin area.

If you think you have athlete’s foot and it hasn’t subsided after a week of home treatment, make an appointment to see your doctor. You may need prescription antifungals (either oral or topical) to get rid of the infection.

You should also make an appointment to see your doctor if you have athlete’s foot and diabetes. This is especially true if you have signs of a secondary bacterial infection, which can be more dangerous in those with diabetes due to their nerve damage.

Signs of infection include redness, pus, swelling, drainage, and fever. If you have diabetes, you may not feel pain in your feet due to nerve damage.

Your doctor will likely be able to diagnose athlete’s foot just by looking at it.

Because athlete’s foot is contagious, make sure you avoid scratching or touching the area except when treating the affected area.

Wash your hands before and after applying treatment. This can help prevent the foot from developing a bacterial infection and prevent the fungal infection from spreading to other parts of your body.

Last medically reviewed on October 25, 2019

Understanding Athlete’s Foot: Treatment

Most cases of athlete’s foot can be cured with over-the-counter antifungal products and basic good hygiene. Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection, so the way to get rid of it is to stop the fungus from growing.

If it’s not treated properly and promptly, athlete’s foot can be very stubborn. Even when you treat it with antifungal drugs, the infection may take several weeks to disappear and may come back after treatment.

More serious cases may need to be seen by a doctor.

Athlete’s Foot Medicine

There are many types of over-the-counter antifungal powders, creams, gels, lotions, and sprays. You might have to try a few before you find one that works best for you.

Follow the instructions on the label of the product you buy. Generally, you apply them every day after you wash and dry your feet. Continue treatment for 1-2 weeks after the infection has cleared to prevent it from recurring.

If the itchy rash on your feet doesn’t clear up after a couple of weeks, see your doctor. They can recommend a prescription cream or antifungal pills.

Hygiene for Athlete’s Foot

In addition to treatment, good foot hygiene is important when you have athlete’s foot. Wash and dry your feet (including between the toes) every morning and evening. And make sure your feet get plenty of air. If you can’t go barefoot or wear sandals, wear synthetic socks that wick away moisture. Cotton tends to trap the moisture and promote fungal growth.

  • Wear shoes made of a porous material.
  • Change socks or stockings daily.
  • Don’t wear the same shoes day after day to allow them time to dry completely before wearing them again.
  • Wash your socks and towels in the hottest water possible.

Athlete’s Foot Natural Remedies

Many people have their own ways to deal with athlete’s foot at home. There’s not much scientific research on how well these remedies work, but some have shown promise.

Tea tree oil. This oil comes from the leaves of a tree that grows in Australia. Because it can kill some types of bacteria and fungus, people have used it as a home remedy for many years.

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When rubbed into your skin twice a day, tea tree oil may be able to reduce the itching, scaling, swelling, and burning of athlete’s foot. But it can take up to a month to see progress. And it doesn’t work for everyone.

Tea tree oil can cause a skin rash or trigger allergies. So talk with your doctor before you try it. They can suggest a tea tree product for you to try or explain how to dilute the oil to avoid side effects.

Never take tea tree oil by mouth since it can be toxic.

Bitter orange. This fruit has been used for years in Chinese medicine and by people who live in the Amazon rainforest.

Bitter orange oil is a natural fungus fighter. Besides athlete’s foot, it may help to clear up ringworm and jock itch.

One study found that when people applied a watered-down form of bitter orange oil to their feet three times a day, the fungus cleared up after a week or two.

Bitter orange can inflame your skin if you use it in its pure form. It can also make you more likely to get a sunburn, so be sure to protect your skin from the sun if you use it.

Ajoene from garlic. Ajoene is a chemical found in garlic that may ease symptoms of athlete’s foot. You can take it by mouth as an antifungal pill. You can also find it in gel form.

In one study, people who applied ajoene to their feet once a day saw their athlete’s foot symptoms go away after a week. This method might also help keep athlete’s foot from coming back.

Sunflower oil. Made from the pressed seeds of sunflowers, this oil has long been said to fight germs. Although athlete’s foot is not a germ, a brand called Oleozon, which contains ozone (another germ-killer), has been shown to get rid of athlete’s foot when applied to the feet. It’s unclear whether other brands of sunflower oil might work as well, but it may be worth trying.

Green tea. Nutrients in green tea called polyphenols have antifungal powers. Soak your feet in lukewarm green tea and you may notice less peeling and redness.

But this method won’t work quickly. You may have to soak your feet every day for 3 months. And more studies are needed to prove that green tea can get rid of the fungus, not just make your feet feel and look better.

Sosa. People in rural parts of Mexico use leaves of the Solanum chrysotrichum plant, also called giant devil’s fig. Studies show that a cream made from an extract of this shrubby plant works as an antifungal for athlete’s foot. It could also prevent it from coming back.

But while studies show that sosa is safe to put on your skin, it may be hard to find.

Vinegar. Some people believe that soaking your feet in a mixture of water and vinegar will get rid of athlete’s foot. While a vinegar soak won’t do your feet any harm, there’s not enough research to prove it will do much good, either.

Can I Prevent Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is contagious. So don’t go barefoot in public areas such as the pool or gym where many others have walked with bare feet. And since moisture helps the fungus grow, cut your risk by keeping your feet clean and dry.

Other sensible steps:

  • Take your shoes off when you go home and let your feet be exposed to the air.
  • Never share shoes, socks, or towels.
  • Be doubly cautious if you take an antibiotic for another condition. The medication can kill beneficial bacteria that normally control the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.

Show Sources

National Institutes of Health.

Mayo Clinic: “Athlete’s Foot.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “How effective are athlete’s foot treatments?”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Tea Tree Oil.”

International Journal of Dermatology : “Oil of Bitter Orange: New Topical Antifungal Agent.”

The Australasian Journal of Dermatology : “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution.”

Clinical Microbiology Reviews : “ Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.”

Mycoses: “ Efficacy of ajoene, an organosulphur derived from garlic, in the short-term therapy of tinea pedis.”

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology : “Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis.”

Mycoses : “Efficacy of ozonized sunflower oil in the treatment of tinea pedis.”

Journal of Applied Microbiology : “Antibacterial activity of ozonized sunflower oil (Oleozon).”

Cleveland Clinic Wellness: “Sunflower Oil.”

Ikeda, S. Foot (Edinburgh, Scotland.) June-September 2013.

Natural Health Research Institute: “Benefits of Green Tea Foot Baths.”

Journal of Ethnophamacology : “ Solanum chrysotrichum (Schldl.) a plant used in Mexico for the treatment of skin mycosis.”

Herrera-Arellano, A. Planta Medica, 2003.

Johnston, C. Medscape General Medicine, 2006.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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