Athlete’s foot is a fungus that is easily transmitted among unwary travelers. By following some simple advice, you can make sure you don’t contaminate your feet in your hotel room or the barefoot extravaganza known as the airport security checkpoint.
Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection of the feet. Every day, podiatrists see people with feet that are burning, itching and peeling. Although many different species of fungus and yeast can cause the problem, the ways that you as a traveler can prevent it are simple and effective.
The fungus that cause athlete’s foot thrives in places that are dark, warm and moist. Shoes are the perfect habitat for fungus. Unfortunately for business travelers and vacationers, there are many places in airports, hotels and vacation spots that are covered in fungus just waiting to infect your feet.
Whenever living foot fungus or fungal spores (which are basically seeds for fungus waiting to sprout) stick to bare skin or enter through tiny little openings in the skin, it can take hold and start to grow. As the fungus grows, it pulls water from the surrounding skin.
This causes peeling and itching of the skin as the fungus does damage and causes delamination or peeling away of the skin’s outer layers. Frequently the infection starts in the moist area between the toes of on the bottom of the foot.
Foot doctors often describe a “moccasin distribution” pattern with athlete’s foot infections. This means that the areas of the feet that turn red and start peeling are usually those that would be in contact with moccasins. The tops of the feet and ankle don’t usually become involved.
Fortunately for you, the most effective prevention measures are also very easy… don’t step in the fungus! When you are traveling, you just have to know where not to step.
You have to make sure to guard your shoes against fungus. The shoes need to be a safe haven for your feet. Any time you get live fungus or fungal spores in your shoes, you run the risk of getting fungal toenails or an athlete’s foot infection.
No matter what you do, when you travel, your feet will prespire. A hurried stressful pace in airport terminals, trying to make that connection while toting a laptop and carry-on bag will make you (and your feet) sweat like crazy.
Since fungus needs moisture to live, you want to do anything you can to reduce the moisture in your shoes. A good place to begin is with well ventilated shoes that breathe while you are on your trip. Shoes that have breathable mesh uppers made of nylon, mesh, or cotton breathe fairly well and let the moisture escape. Leather, plastic and rubber tend to hold the fungus in your shoes encouraging fungus to grow.
Make sure you rotate your shoes during your trip. Have at least two pairs of shoes so you can wear them on alternate days. This will allow them enough time to fully dry out before you wear them again.
If you are very active or if your feet sweat a lot, try changing your socks half way through the day. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your feet dry and fungus free. Wear synthetic socks and avoid cotton to keep moisture away from your feet. There are also newer socks available that have copper fibers woven into them. Copper seams to decrease the likelihood that fungus will take hold in the sock material.
Because even the most relaxing vacations involve lots of walking through airports, hotels and site-seeing, choose comfortable walking shoes for your trip. Many vacationers opt for sandals or flip flips when on vacation, however these can lead to friction blisters that let the fungus in and start the infection.
Make sure you avoid the fungus hotspots. The carpet you feel under your sock-clad feet while waiting to get through security is a haven for athlete’s foot-causing fungus. All day and night, sweaty feet emerge from their shoes and shuffle along the carpet. Everyone steps and stands in this continual stream of perspiring feet and shedding foot fungus. As you trudge through the line, your sweaty socks pick up fungal spores. Then you put your feet back in your shoes that act as incubators to start your own little foot fungus farm.
Unfortunately most airport security checkpoints now require that every pair of shoes goes through the xray machine. But this doesn’t mean you can’t protect your feet. One simple solution is to wear an old worn out pair of socks to the airport. Carry a clean pair in your pocket. Take of your shoes, and go through security wearing your old worn out socks. After you get through the checkpoint, take off the old socks and put on the clean ones before you put your shoes back on. Throw the old socks away. Now you can start your vacation fungus-free!
The next place to avoid is the hotel carpet and bathroom. You never know how clean those places are, regardless of how expensive the hotel is. Just because it costs as much as a hospital room, doesn’t mean it is just as clean. If you wear socks in the hotel room, just don’t put your shoes on until you change socks.
Make sure you also step on the terry cloth mat when you step out of the shower. If possible, get a clean mat with clean towels every day. If you go down to the sauna in the athletic facility, make sure you wear shower shoes. All of the heat and moisture creates the ideal fungal environment. Fungus can also grow on the tile around the pool and hot tub, but the chlorine in the water actually helps keep it from being as big of a problem.
If your trip takes you to someplace where you can head to the beach, make sure you wear sandals to protect your feet. Don’t forget that any tiny little cuts or abrasions are the best way for fungus to get in and start an athlete’s foot infection.
Now that you understand the basics about foot fungus and where it tends to thrive, you can easily side-step it. Between the airlines and security, travel has enough aggravation. You certainly don’t need anything else getting under your skin.