Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection and mostly affects the skin between the toes. The affected skin turns reddish-white, soggy, itchy, and scaly. As the infection is seen mostly in athletes, it is named athlete’s foot.
Children of any age can get this fungal infection when they use common showers, swimming pools, and locker rooms. The infection seldom causes any severe complications and can be resolved through topical antifungal creams. Read this post to know more about athlete’s foot in children, its symptoms, and ways to prevent it.
What Causes Athlete’s Foot In Children?
Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis or foot ringworm, is caused by a fungus belonging to the dermatophytes group of fungi (1). The infections caused by these fungi are known as tinea infections. These fungi thrive in humid and warm conditions and are predominant in damp places, such as showers, swimming pools, and locker rooms. Their fungal spores can survive for a long time in favorable conditions and spread the infection (2).
Risk Factors For Athlete’s Foot
- Walking barefoot on contaminated floors, like those in locker rooms or public showers.
- Wearing shoes that do not provide the feet with adequate ventilation.
- Keeping the feet wet for a long time after a shower or swim.
- Sweating profusely due to exercise or hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).
- Sharing socks, towels, or shoes with others.
Signs and Symptoms Of Athlete’s Foot In Children
Children with athlete’s foot show the following signs.
- Infected skin cracks and blisters
- Redness, and formation of scales on the soles of the feet
- Itchy reddish-white patches or blisters between the toes
- Sting- or burn-like sensation felt in the affected skin
- Cheese-like skin between the toes, with a foul odor
- Itchy blisters may appear soggy and ooze fluid.
The athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the body through contact. When the infection spreads to the groin area and armpits, then it is known as jock itch.
Diagnosis And Treatment For Athlete’s Foot
The healthcare provider can diagnose the condition through visual inspection of the affected skin. They may ask about the child’s medical history and enquire about the use of public sports facilities, swimming pools, or showers. If a visual inspection is not sufficient, the doctor may examine skin scrapings under the microscope to determine the presence of fungus.
Athlete’s foot can be treated with topical antifungal creams or powders. Your child may have to use the cream for a week or two after the infection is cleared, to prevent recurrence (7). Oral antifungal medications may be prescribed in severe cases. If the child is getting recurrent infection, the doctor might advise a blood test for diabetes.
Home Remedies For Athlete’s Foot
Home remedies may help relieve the symptoms of athlete’s foot. Do note that these remedies have limited scientific evidence. Let your child’s doctor know before using these remedies to prevent interference with the treatment.
1. Tea tree oil
Mix tea tree oil in coconut oil in the proportion of 1:2 and apply it on the affected area. Repeat this twice daily.
4. Sea salt
Sea salt is also known for its antifungal property (11). Mix a cup of sea salt in a small tub of warm water and let your child soak their feet for at least 20 minutes. However, do remember to dry their feet thoroughly post soaking.
5. Talcum powder
Anecdotal evidence suggests that talcum or baby powder might help relieve the athlete’s foot symptoms by keeping the affected area clean and dry.
Apply talcum powder all over your child’s feet before putting on the socks. Repeat this every time they wear shoes.
6. Baking soda
Studies found that baking soda was able to inhibit the growth of dermatophytes. It could be used as a topical antifungal agent to relieve the symptoms of athlete’s foot (12).
Make a paste by mixing baking soda in water, apply it on the affected area, and let it remain for 15 minutes. Rinse and repeat twice daily.
Prevention Of Athlete’s Foot In Children
- Make it a habit for your child to wash their feet and dry them thoroughly after walking barefoot outdoors.
- Ensure your child dries their feet (especially the area between the toes) after taking a shower.
- Make your child wear shower shoes in public showers to prevent their feet from touching the floor.
- Provide them with clean cotton socks and breathable shoes.
- Change your child’s socks daily and wash them with a disinfectant.
- Never let your child share towels, shoes, or clothes with others.
- Clip nails periodically since fungal spores can lodge themselves under the nails.
- Sun-dry washed shoes thoroughly before using them again.
Possible Complications Of Athlete’s Foot In Children
Athlete’s foot is a mild and common skin infection that cures with treatment within weeks. In rare instances, a delay in the treatment may cause the following complications (15).
- Impetigo: Athlete’s foot can cause the skin to crack open, thus permitting the entry of bacteria. It could lead to impetigo, a superficial bacterial infection of the skin.
- Cellulitis: If bacteria spread to the deeper layers of the skin, fat, and soft tissues, then they cause cellulitis. It is characterized by red patches that are hot and tender to touch.
- Onychomycosis: Fungus from the skin of the feet can spread to the toenails to cause onychomycosis, a fungal nail infection.
Bacterial infections require antibiotic treatment. Fungal nail infection may require additional medications like oral antifungals for a long duration.
Athlete’s foot in children is curable without any complications. However, there is a possibility of the infection to recur in the absence of proper hygiene and precautions. Make sure your child follows basic foot hygiene. If your child’s immune system is weak, then take extra care to check for such infections regularly and get them treated in time.
2. Nkatoko Freddy Makola et al., Managing athlete’s foot; South African Family Practice
3. Athlete’s Foot; St. Louis Children’s Hospital
4. Athlete’s Foot; Rady Children’s Hospital
5. Athlete’s foot; U.S. National Library of Medicine
6. Athlete’s Foot; University of Michigan
7. What is Athlete’s Foot?; Penn Medicine
8. Andrew C Satchell et al., Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study; NIH
9. Farzad Aala et al., Inhibitory effect of allicin and garlic extracts on growth of cultured hyphae; NCBI
10. Neem: A Tree For Solving Global Problems; NCBI
11. Michelle Pirrie Stockwell, John Clulow, and Michael Joseph Mahony; Sodium Chloride Inhibits the Growth and Infective Capacity of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus and Increases Host Survival Rates; NCBI
12. V Letscher-Bru et al., Antifungal activity of sodium bicarbonate against fungal agents causing superficial infections; NIH
13. Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
14. Athlete’s foot | Tinea pedis U.S. National Library of Medicine
15. Athlete’s foot; Health Service Executive