Children's Hospital Colorado

Athlete's Foot

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • An itchy rash of the feet and between the toes
  • Skin infection caused by a fungus
  • Age over 10 years

Symptoms of Athlete's Foot

  • Red, scaly, cracked rash between the toes
  • The rash itches and burns
  • With itching, the rash becomes raw and weepy
  • Often also involves the insteps of the feet
  • Unpleasant foot odor
  • Mainly in teens. Before age 10, it's usually something else.

Cause of Athlete's Foot

  • A fungus infection that grows best on warm, damp skin

Complications of Athlete's Foot

  • Jock Itch. A fungus infection of the groin and inner, upper thighs. Caused by the same fungus that causes athlete's foot. Transferred by a towel used to dry the feet and then the groin.
  • Impetigo. A local bacterial infection that starts in the cracks between the toes. Gives sores, soft scabs and pus.
  • Cellulitis. The bacterial infection spreads into the skin. Gives redness spreading into the back of the foot. The red area is painful to the touch.
  • Lymphangitis. The bacterial infection spreads up the lymph channels. Gives a red line that goes up the leg. More serious because the infection can get into the bloodstream. This is called sepsis.

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Fever and looks infected (spreading redness)

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Looks infected and no fever
  • Pus drains from the rash
  • Foot is very painful

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Rash has spread to the top of the feet
  • Age less than 10 years
  • Rash is not better after 1 week on treatment
  • Rash not gone after 2 weeks on treatment
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild athlete's foot

Care Advice for Athlete's Foot

  1. What You Should Know About Athlete's Foot:
    • Athlete's foot is common in teens.
    • It's caused by a fungus that grows best on warm, damp skin.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Anti-Fungal Cream:  
    • Use an anti-fungal cream (such as Lotrimin). No prescription is needed.
    • Use 2 times per day.
    • Put it on the rash and 1 inch (25 mm) beyond its borders.
    • Continue the cream for at least 7 days after the rash is gone.
  3. Keep the Feet Dry:  
    • Rinse the feet 2 times per day before using the cream.
    • Go barefoot or wear sandals as much as possible.
    • Wear socks made of man-made fibers. They will keep the feet drier and cooler than cotton. Change them twice daily.
  4. Do Not Scratch:
    • Scratching infected feet will delay a cure.
    • Rinse the itchy feet in cool water for relief.
  5. Return to School:  
    • Athlete's foot is not easily spread to others. The fungus can't grow on dry, normal skin.
    • Children with athlete's foot do not need to miss any school. Your child may take gym and play sports.
    • The socks can be washed with the normal laundry. They don't need to be boiled.
  6. Jock Itch Prevention:
    • The athlete's foot fungus can spread to the groin area. This is called jock itch.
    • The fungus can be spread by a towel or washcloth.
    • Therefore, after bathing, dry the groin area before the feet.
    • You can also use a different towel for the feet.
    • Do this until the athlete's foot is cured.
  7. What to Expect:
    • With proper treatment, athlete's foot goes away within 2 weeks.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • It looks infected
    • Rash is not better after 1 week on treatment
    • Rash is not gone after 2 weeks on treatment
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Care Advice for Athlete's Foot

Athlete's Foot

This image shows more extensive Athlete's Foot involving most of the bottom portion of the foot.

The primary symptoms are itching and redness.

Athletes Foot between Toes

A very common location for Athlete's Foot is the third, fourth, or fifth web space between the toes.

This image shows redness and breakdown of the skin from fungus infection.

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 used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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