You may pride yourself on your healthy habits but, one day you notice that your feet and ankles seem to be rather itchy lately. Then your toenails seem to be turning a weird shade of yellow, and some of the nails seem rather thick and crumbly. You might even notice some toenails are peeling away from the nail bed. What exactly is going on? Well, you may just have developed a nasty case of athlete’s foot.
What Is Athlete’s Foot?
The term “athlete’s foot” refers to a fungal infection that usually targets your feet, toenails, and in some cases, also your ankles. You can get this fungal infection when you share a place or stuff with people who already have athlete’s foot. For example, as the name indicates, athletes may get this fungal infection in the shower stalls and locker rooms of their gym.
You can contract the fungal infection by walking barefoot in those places. You can also get the infection if you share shoes or socks with someone or buy shoes second-hand. The fungus thrives in warm and damp environments. If you must be in places like that, you should take extra precautions to avoid developing a case of athlete’s foot.
Here are some natural treatments you can consider so that you can minimize or even eliminate an athlete’s foot infection altogether. The success of natural treatments depends a lot on how severe the infection is. Just to play it safe, some people may need to use pharmaceutical preparations such as antifungal cream after going through some (or all) of these natural treatments.
1. Garlic Cloves
The common kitchen garlic is good for treating athlete’s foot infection. Garlic has long been known for its antifungal properties. Not only is it easy to come by in your nearby grocery store or supermarket, but it also contains ajoene, which is reportedly to be very effective against athlete’s foot infections in particular.
To use garlic for fungal treatment, crush around 4 cloves and immerse them in warm water. You can then soak your feet in the water for about 30 minutes. Do this twice a day for around seven days – that should deal with the infection directly.
2. Tea Tree Oil
The tea tree oil extract is produced from the Australian tea tree. The extract is said to have antifungal properties that can be used to treat athlete’s foot. One source says that a solution with 25% to 50% extract from the tea tree is useful for relieving the symptoms of athlete’s foot.
The solution can be a few drops of the tea tree extract which is then added to a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. However, you should be careful when applying the solution during the treatment period since prolonged use can be irritating to the skin.
If you prefer, you could look for products in health food stores that sell tea tree salves or tea tree creams instead. These are also possible treatment options for athlete’s foot.
3. Iodine Mixed And Hydrogen Peroxide
These are actually two different products that, when mixed, create a quite powerful solution that can help to effectively treat fungal infections. To do this, you can mix some iodine with some hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. Then, dip some cotton balls into the mixture. You can then use the cotton balls to apply the solution to your infected skin areas.
If you wish, you may also put the solution in a pail and soak your feet in it. To any skin irritation, it is recommended that you add and mix some water in the solution.
4. Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda)
Yes, that’s right – ordinary baking soda can be used to treat that fungal infection. Many kitchens have some baking soda in there somewhere so it might just be a matter of looking for it.
To use baking soda, measure half a cup of and put it into a large enough pail, basin, or any container that can comfortably contain both your feet. Add warm water and mix well.
Lower your feet into the solution and soak for around 30 minutes, twice a day. When done, pat your feet dry but do not wash your feet. Let a layer of baking soda stay between your toes.
5. Vinegar and Baking Soda
Since your house probably has at least one bottle of white vinegar somewhere in the kitchen, that will make this solution easy to make.
Measure one part vinegar and pour it in a basin. Add four parts of water and mix. Soak your feet in the mixture for about 30 minutes. For best results, do this twice daily. Then, sprinkle some baking soda carefully between all of your toes (including the topsides and undersides), and wait for 15 minutes. Then, rinse your feet and dry them well, including between the toes. You may find some relief from your infection by then.
6. Vinegar, Tea Tree Oil, and Lavender
What may seem to be a strange mixture is this combination of white vinegar with tea tree oil and lavender oil, which are essential oils. However, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that lavender extract has antifungal properties, just like tea tree oil, so that makes this combination very tough to beat. Get one gallon of warm water and mix it well with half a cup of vinegar. Add some drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil and mix again. You may now soak your feet in the solution for around 20 minutes. For best results, do this twice daily.
7. Antiseptic Mouthwash
If you seem to have run out of the natural treatment ingredients for athlete’s foot that have been mentioned, you can also use some antiseptic mouthwash instead. Apply this carefully to your infection site. Although mouthwash might be more expensive than your other natural solutions for fungal infections, it does the job anyway. So, when you have no other option but really need relief, use this.
8. Salt Water
If you have ever had a fungal infection and then gone swimming in the ocean, you may have noticed the fungal infection site peeling by itself after. The skin peeling is a sign that the fungus was killed by the salty ocean water. So for this antifungal solution, you may do it the old-fashioned way and just go immerse your feet in the ocean water at a beach. If you can’t go to the beach yet, that’s fine. You only need to make your own salty water at home.
You just need about 1/3 cup of pure salt and mix it with one gallon of warm water. Then sit and soak your feet in this salty solution for around 10 minutes, once a day. After, don’t forget to dry off your feet thoroughly. Keep doing this daily until you see improvement.
9. Bitter Orange
The bitter orange is a variety of citrus plant that has been used for a long time in Chinese medicine as well as by people who reside in the Amazon Rainforest. All you need to do is mix an extract of bitter orange (called bitter orange oil) with some water and apply it on the fungal infection three times every day. If you do this consistently and carefully, you may find that the infection will clear up in one to two weeks.
This is another one of those quirky medical treatments that you may encounter and even feel dubious about until you try it. It is the good bacteria in the yogurt that kills off the athlete’s foot fungus. Get some yogurt (plain-flavored is best for this) and smear it on the fungal infection. Allow the yogurt to dry and then rinse it off and dry thoroughly.
How To Avoid Athlete’s Foot Infection
As with a lot of cases of fungal infections, prevention is often the best cure for athlete’s foot. This is because once you get this kind of fungal infection, it can be very difficult to get rid of. It might even take years of consistent treatment, care strategies, and preventive medication. Thus, if you don’t have athlete’s foot, these tips can help you prevent suffering from a persistent case of athlete’s foot:
- Some facilities may prepare an antiseptic foot bath where everyone entering the shower stall or locker room has to dip their feet. If your gym doesn’t have this, it may be prudent to ask the manager of the facility about setting up one. At the same time, check if the facility has maintenance staff who clean out the shower stalls and locker rooms daily. If they don’t, it is best to look for a more hygienic gym for your exercise workouts.
- You can protect yourself by using shower slippers, not walking barefoot in the facility (even in the shower stall), and refraining from borrowing other people’s clothes (such as socks), towels or shoes. You may also use talcum powder on your feet after you have dried them well first. Some sources recommend that, before you add the powder, you dry your feet out with a hairdryer so that drying will be thorough.
- Because fungus favors long nails, you should also be careful to cut your toenails reasonably short. Be sure to wash your feet well with soap and water at least once daily, as normal hygiene requires. If someone who lives with you at home has an athlete’s foot, wear shower slippers, and make sure to clean out the shower or bathtub before using it so that you avoid getting your feet contaminated. You may also recommend to that person the natural treatments described here.
- If you already have an athlete’s foot infection, do not spread it around. Avoid walking barefoot anywhere, particularly in your bedroom, so that others do not pick up the infection from you. Refrain from sharing socks, shoes, and slippers with any other member of your household, even when you have already been cured of the infection.
- Always wear clean clothes, particularly clean socks after you shower or bathe. In this way, you won’t be encouraging the growth of fungus in twice-used clothes. If you do your own laundry, it is advisable to use hot water and a good brand of detergent to wash them, particularly your used socks.
- If you tend to get sweaty feet, you should try and buy other pairs of shoes and slippers and then use those on alternating days. Let the shoes you previously used dry out well, particularly in the toe area. This is best done by leaving outside to air under the hot sun because sunlight is very good at killing off fungus and bacteria. If you can, buy lighter shoes that let your feet “breathe” better. That can also help in healing your feet.
Consult a dermatologist if the infection doesn’t go away even after trying out the natural treatments suggested here – you might need a strong topical antifungal medication as well.
Your dermatologist may also give you an oral antifungal medication that you will have to swallow – the meds are supposed to prevent the fungus from spreading internally. This is for people who have a severe fungal infection that is spreading rapidly.
Remember that, if you have other disorders such as diabetes or compromised immune systems, you should refrain from using products such as the natural treatments described here. Do so only with approval from your doctor about their suitability, safety, dosages, and frequency. This will ensure that you avoid drug reactions, contraindications, or complications that can exacerbate your illness.
Some people are naturally prone to fungal infections. If you’re one of them, it pays to be extra careful so as not to get an athlete’s foot infection.
If you already developed an athlete’s foot infection, you should try out the natural treatments summarized in this article to see if these are effective and kill off your fungal infection.
If natural treatments did not eliminate your athlete’s foot infection, you may have to consult a dermatologist and get a prescription for strong antifungal medication so that your feet will finally be free of all fungal infections. That would really be a relief.
Eugene Sanchez is a health enthusiast who encourages people to stay healthy by sticking to a well-balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Eugene writes health-related blogs to help his readers easily incorporate healthier lifestyle choices into their daily routines!