By Kate Clayton-Jones
MSN PhD(c) RN CFCN CFCS
Summer time is a time of joy, for both you and microbes. During the winter months, many of us keep our feet warm and dry by using good clean socks and leather shoes. In the summer though, we switch to flip-flops and shoes that have rubber soles. Shoes that fit come in all sorts of textures and materials. But if your feet sweat, you want to continue to keep them dry. Sweaty feet provide a great environment for growing dermatophytes, which often manifest on the skin as tiny round pealing circles and flaking skin. More severe cases include redness (moccasin pattern) and a burning pain. Itching can also happen between and around the toes. Typically self-diagnosed, the dermatophyte infection is often called tinea pedis and it is a fungal infection. Dermatophytes thrive on keratin. Your skin and nails have keratin, and your sweaty feet in combination with the rubber soles found in comfortable shoes such as Teva’s, Keen’s, flip flops, Croc’s, running shoes and river shoes, are warm damp environments. Fungus just loves keratin and warm damp environments. So if you want to grow fungus on your feet, stay with shoes that keep your feet damp. If you don’t, then there are over the counter and prescribed medications that can be applied directly to your skin and to your shoes, and there are also old-fashioned inexpensive effective remedies like vinegar soaks (1/2 vinegar/ 1/2 water 20 mins for 3-4 days) and lavender sachets (to put in your shoes). These treatments change the environment so that the dermatophytes can’t thrive. No matter the treatment, it is then important to keep your feet dry; good hygiene, wear socks that wick moisture away and shoes that absorb moisture – e.g leather-based shoes and sandals.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t be afraid to consult with a medical professional. It also important to stay away from petroleum-based creams (they are occlusive and trap moisture) and harsh chemicals and please don’t use bleach or gasoline, that just isn’t smart.
Fungi are very important components of our ecosystem. They are the decomposers. They also have their own medicinal properties and can be a complete meal. While mushrooms are a great summer treat on a barbeque or stirred into a favored dish, preventing fungi from growing on your feet or skin requires just a little application of knowledge, some good footwear and skin hygiene.