6 Home Remedies For Athlete’s Foot In Children

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Athlete’s foot in children is a fungal infection, which usually affects the skin of the feet, especially between the toes. The primary sign of the infection is the reddish-white appearance of the skin. The affected area may also become itchy, moist, and scaly. It is called athlete’s foot since it is most commonly observed among athletes.

Children may risk catching this fungal infection if they frequently use public showers, swimming pools, or locker rooms without footwear. The infection can usually be resolved with topical antifungal medications. This post tells you more about athlete’s foot in children, its symptoms, and how 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).

According to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, this fungal infection is less likely to affect children before puberty (3). It mostly affects teens and young adults (4).

Risk Factors For Athlete’s Foot

The following conditions and situations increase a child’s risk of developing athlete’s foot (5) (6).

  • 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

According to a study, tea tree oil is said to have antifungal activity against dermatophytes (8). Regular application of tea tree oil is said to reduce the symptoms of athlete’s foot.

Mix tea tree oil in coconut oil in the proportion of 1:2 and apply it on the affected area. Repeat this twice daily.

2. Garlic

Garlic’s antifungal properties make it a topical antifungal agent (9)
. Crush a few garlic cloves and rub them on the affected area and rinse it after 15 minutes. Repeat these steps twice daily.

3. Neem

Neem is proven to be effective against dermatophytes. You can apply neem oil or neem leaves paste on the affected area. Repeat it twice or thrice a day (10).

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

Athlete’s foot can be avoided through simple lifestyle changes and precautions (13) (14).

  • 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What can be mistaken for athlete’s foot?

Eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, and pityriasis rosea are a few conditions that may be mistaken for athlete’s foot (16) (17).

2. Can athlete’s foot in children go away on its own?

Athlete’s foot is unlikely to self-resolve and usually will require anti-fungal medication, including over-the-counter topical creams for relief (18).

Accumulation of sweat or wetness from walking barefoot may lead to fungal growth between toes causing Athlete’s foot or tinea pedis. It is treatable with antifungal medication. However, it is better to check with your doctor before using any ointment or cream or home remedies such as tea tree oil, garlic, neem, or baking soda. Untreated Athlete’s feet in children may cause bacterial infections due to deep cracks or toenail fungal infections. Ensure your child follows basic foot hygiene to keep the toes clean and dry to prevent fungus from growing.

Key Pointers

  • Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes.
  • Walking barefoot on dirty floors or wearing shoes that do not have proper ventilation increases the risk of infections.
  • Infected skin cracks and cheese-like skin between toes are common signs of Athlete’s foot.
  • Washing feet often, wearing clean cotton socks, and other preventive measures as you scroll through.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Tinea (Ringworm, Jock Itch, Athlete’s Foot); John Hopkins Medicine
2. Nkatoko Freddy Makola et al., Managing athlete’s foot; South African Family Practice
3. Athlete’s Foot; St. Louis Children’s Hospital
4. Tinea pedis; DermNet NZ
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
16. Ask the doctor: Athlete’s foot that won’t quit; Harvard Health Publishing
17. Tinea Infection; University of Rochester
18. Athlete’s foot; NHS
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Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more

Dr. Anuradha Bansal

Dr. Anuradha Bansal is a pediatrician and neonatologist working as assistant professor in the Department of Paediatrics at PIMS Jalandhar. She has done her MBBS and MD Pediatrics at GMCH, Chandigarh. Thereafter, she polished her skills as senior resident at MAMC, Delhi. She has also done IAP Fellowship in Neonatology at GMCH, Chandigarh and obtained the membership of the prestigious... more