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Adult Symptoms > Skin - Localized Symptoms > Athlete's Foot
Athlete's Foot


  • Fungus infection of the feet
  • Causes itchy rash on the feet and between the toes

General Information

  • Athlete's Foot is an infection caused by a fungus that grows best on the warm, damp skin of the foot and toes. It is also referred to as "Tinea Pedis."
  • It is a common malady, with up to 70% of the adult population having it at some point in their lives.
  • There are both topical and oral medications that work well in treating this infection. Most healthy individuals will be able to treat Athlete's Foot effectively using a topical agent.


  • Red, scaly, cracked rash between the toes
  • May involve the insteps of the feet
  • The rash itches and burns; with scratching, the rash becomes raw and weepy
  • Unpleasant foot odor

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If


Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You feel weak or very sick
  • Looks infected (redness, swelling, warmth, tender to touch, or red streaks)
  • Fever

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think you need to be seen
  • Pus is draining from the rash
  • Foot is very painful

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Rash has spread beyond the instep and toes
  • You have diabetes

Self Care at Home If

  • Mild Athlete's Foot and you don't think you need to be seen


General Care Advice for Athletes Foot

  1. Antifungal Cream. Apply the antifungal cream 2 times a day to the affected areas of the feet. Continue the cream for at least 7 days after the rash is cleared.
    • Available over-the-counter in U.S. as terbinafine (Lamisil AT) or clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF) or miconazole (Micatin, Monistat-Derm).
    • Available over-the-counter in Canada as clotrimazole (Clotrimazole cream, Canesten, Clotrimaderm) or miconazole (Micatin Cream, Micozole, Monistat-Derm).
    • Terbinafine (Lamisil AT) is most recommended, but is not available in Canada.
    • Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications that you use.
  2. Keep the Feet Clean and Dry: Wash the feet two times every day. Dry the feet completely, especially between the toes. Then apply the cream. Wear clean socks and change them twice daily.
  3. Avoid Scratching: Scratching infected feet will delay healing. Rinse the itchy feet in cool water for relief.
  4. Contagiousness:
    • The condition is not very contagious.
    • The fungus can't grow on dry, normal skin.
    • Adults with Athlete's Foot do not need to miss any school or work. You can continue to play sports.
    • The socks can be washed with regular laundry. They don't need to be boiled.
  5. Expected Course: With proper treatment, Athlete's Foot should decrease substantially within 1 week and disappear within 2 weeks.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Rash looks infected (e.g., spreading redness, streaks, pus)
    • Rash continues to spread after 1 week of treatment
    • Rash has not cleared after 2 weeks of treatment
    • You become worse


  1. Avoid Being Barefoot in Public Areas (e.g., showers, bathrooms, swimming pools). You can get athlete's foot from walking barefoot in these areas. Wear sandals.
  2. Keep the Feet Clean and Dry:
    • Wash your feet with warm soapy water once a day. Rinse the feet and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes.
    • Wear clean cotton socks and change daily.

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 10/2/2011

Last Revised: 10/2/2011

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions LLC; LMS, Inc.

Additional Resources:

 How to use the Adult Health Topics pages
 When to call the doctor
 Reviewers of Clinical Content

Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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