Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Alexandria. Alexandria Wonders, “What is Athlete Foot” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Alexandria!

If you’ve ever spent much time playing outside on a warm day, you may have noticed that your feet got a little… well, sweaty. And why wouldn’t they? Imagine being wrapped up in a sock and stuffed inside a tennis shoe. It has to be stifling in there! It’s normal for feet to sweat. But it can also aggravate the topic of today’s Wonder of the Day—athlete’s foot!

You may have heard of athlete’s foot before. It’s a very common condition. Also called tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection. It affects the feet, but it can also spread to the hands. That’s called tinea manuum. 

Does athlete’s foot only happen to athletes? No, anyone can be affected. The condition got this nickname because it’s certainly common among people who play sports. After all, their feet spend a lot of time in sweaty shoes and socks, which can exacerbate tinea pedis. However, athlete’s foot isn’t picky—it’ll infect anyone.

It’s important to note that athlete’s foot isn’t caused by sweaty feet. While sweat can make the infection worse, people actually pick up the fungus when their feet touch surfaces it’s growing on. It likes to live in warm, wet places. 

Many people pick up the fungus by walking barefoot in locker rooms or public pools. It can also spread from person to person. If you have athlete’s foot, don’t share towels, clothing, or shoes with others—this can spread the fungus

How will you know if you have athlete’s foot? People infected with the fungus often feel itching or burning on their feet. They will also notice redness on the skin of their feet. Often, the skin will peel or crack. Usually, the infection starts between the toes and then spreads to other areas of the foot. If you notice these symptoms, talk with a trusted adult.

Athlete’s foot can be very unpleasant. Is it treatable? Luckily, yes! Often, doctors can identify tinea pedis by sight, but they sometimes use a test to be sure. For mild cases, doctors usually recommend over-the-counter creams, sprays, or powders. In more severe cases, patients may need prescription medication. 

With treatment, most cases of athlete’s foot clear up after a few weeks. However, the infection can become more serious. If left untreated, it could cause a bacterial infection. Additionally, those with diabetes or suppressed immune systems could have a harder time recovering from this condition.

To avoid athlete’s foot, be sure to wash your feet with soap and water daily. It’s also important to change your socks if they get sweaty and to not share socks or shoes with others. At the public pool or in the locker room, wear shoes or sandals. Some people also use an antifungal powder or cream every day to prevent infection.

Have you ever had athlete’s foot? If so, you know it’s no fun. It’s important to take steps to avoid this infection. But if you start to show symptoms of tinea pedis, there’s no reason to be embarrassed. It’s very common and can happen to anyone! Just talk with a trusted family member as soon as possible. They can help you get treatment.

Standards: CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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