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Traveler’s Foot May Be Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s athlete’s foot is a fungus that spreads easily among unwary travellers. By following a few simple tips, you can make sure you don’t get your feet dirty 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 burning, itchy and peeling feet. While many different species of fungi and yeast can cause this problem, there are simple but effective preventative steps you can take as a traveler.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot thrives in dark, warm, and humid places. Shoes are the perfect habitat for fungi. Unfortunately for business travelers and vacationers alike, many places in airports, hotels, and resorts are infested with fungus, waiting to infect your feet.
Whenever live foot fungus or fungal spores (basically, fungal seeds waiting to germinate) stick to bare skin or get in through tiny openings in the skin, it grabs hold and begins to grow. As the fungus grows, it draws moisture from the surrounding skin.
This can cause peeling and itching of the skin as the fungus causes damage and causes the outer layers of the skin to delaminate or peel off. The infection usually starts in the moist area on the bottom of the foot between the toes.
Podiatrists often describe a “moccasin distribution” pattern of athlete’s foot infection. This means that the areas on the foot that turn red and begin to peel are usually the areas that came into contact with the moccasins. The insteps and ankles are usually not affected.
Fortunately for you, the most effective preventive measures are also very simple…don’t step on the fungus! When you travel, you just need to know where not to step.
You have to make sure to protect your shoes from fungus. Shoes need to be a haven for your feet. Anytime you have live fungus or fungal spores in your shoes, you’re at risk for a fungal toenail or athlete’s foot infection.
No matter what you do, when you travel, your feet breathe. Hurrying around an airport terminal with a laptop and carry-on bag trying to make that connection will make you (and your feet) sweat like crazy.
Since fungus needs moisture to survive, you want to do everything you can to reduce moisture in your shoes. A good place to start is with a pair of breathable shoes that allow you to breathe during your journey. Shoes with a breathable mesh upper made of nylon, mesh, or cotton breathe fairly well and allow moisture to escape. Leather, plastic, and rubber tend to trap fungus in shoes, which encourages fungal growth.
Make sure to rotate your shoes during your trip. Have at least two pairs of shoes ready to wear every other day. This will give them enough time to dry completely before putting them on.
If you’re very active or your feet sweat a lot, try changing your socks halfway through the day. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your feet dry and fungus-free. Wear synthetic socks and avoid cotton socks to keep your feet from getting wet. There are also newer socks that have copper fibers woven into them. Copper seams reduce the possibility of fungus taking root in the sock material.
Since even the most relaxing vacations involve a lot of walking through airports, hotels, and sights, choose comfortable walking shoes for your trip. Many vacationers opt for sandals or flip-flops while on vacation, but these can lead to frictional blisters that allow fungus to get in and start an infection.
Make sure to avoid fungal hotspots. The carpet you touch under your socked feet while waiting to go through security is a safe haven for the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. Days and nights, sweaty feet protruding from the shoes and shuffling on the carpet. Everyone walks in this constant stream of sweaty feet and exfoliated foot fungus. When you trudge through the line, your sweaty socks will be covered with fungal spores. Then you put your feet back in your shoes, which act as incubators, and start your own little foot fungus farm.
Unfortunately, most airport security checkpoints now require every pair of shoes to go through an X-ray machine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t protect your feet. An easy fix is to wear a worn pair of socks to the airport. Keep a clean pair in your pocket. Take off your shoes and go through security in worn out socks. After passing through the checkpoint, take off your old socks and put on clean socks before putting on your shoes. Throw away old socks. Now you can start your fungus-free vacation!
The next places to avoid are hotel carpets and bathrooms. You never know how clean those places are, no matter how expensive the hotel is. Just because it’s as expensive as a hospital room doesn’t mean it’s as clean as a hospital room. If you wear socks in a hotel room, leave your shoes off until you change your socks.
Make sure you also step on the terry cloth pad when you get out of the shower. Find a clean mat and clean towels every day if possible. If you go to a sauna at a sports facility, be sure to wear shower shoes. All that heat and moisture creates the ideal environment for fungi. Fungus can also grow on tile around swimming pools and hot tubs, but the chlorine in the water actually helps keep it from becoming a big problem.
If your travels take you anywhere you can head to the beach, be sure to wear sandals to protect your feet. Don’t forget that any tiny cut or scrape is the best way for fungus to get in and start an athlete’s foot infection.
Now that you know the basics of foot fungus and where it tends to breed, you can easily avoid it. Between airlines and safety, travel has deteriorated enough. You certainly don’t need anything else to get into your skin.
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