Children's Hospital Colorado

Athlete's Foot

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  • 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

Other health problems 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 or Seek Care Now

  • Fever and looks infected (spreading redness)

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

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

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Rash has spread to the top of the foot
  • 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 between Toes

Athlete’s foot is often located between the toes. The skin is dry and cracked.

Athlete's Foot

This shows the bottom of a foot with athlete’s foot. The skin is dry and cracked.


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