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Fight Foot Fungi

Warm weather should be a warning that you need to take certain steps

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SUNDAY, July 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- There's nothing quite like a warm, dark, moist environment to make fungi feel right at home.

And particularly in the summer, that cozy place can unfortunately be on your feet.

With more than 250,000 sweat glands in the foot, maintaining the kind of ventilation necessary to prevent fungal growth can be a challenge. Failure to do so can lead to such problems as foot odor, fungal nail infections, athlete's foot and other skin infections, warns the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Common areas of fungal growth are the soles of the feet and between the toes. Signs of infection can include dry skin, itching, scaling, inflammation and blisters that can break and lead to pain and swelling.

If you find your feet plagued with such problems, you're probably not alone in your community -- infections such as athlete's foot are contagious and can be spread not only at warm, humid places such as swimming pools, but even through the sharing of towels.

To prevent fungal infections of the foot, experts recommend changing your shoes daily to let each pair air out. When it's hot or you're working out frequently, socks should be changed even more often, and try to avoid walking barefoot at public pools or locker rooms.

There are a number of over-the-counter anti-fungal foot powders that can be effective in preventing or treating athlete's foot, and even soaking your feet in vinegar and water can help prevent foot odor, says the APMA.

If you do find yourself with an infection, be patient -- it can take several weeks for the problem to clear up. If the condition persists or becomes increasingly painful, it's time to see a doctor.

More information

Here's more from the American Academy of Dermatology on athlete's foot and other foot fungus infections.

SOURCE: American Podiatric Medical Association
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