There’s a fungus among us and it is frequently found between our toes. This is probably the most common fungal infection known to mankind and you can understand why. There is no better place to set up housekeeping than a dark, moist, warm environment like feet. Classic symptoms include redness, itching, cracking, burning, and pain. The longer you let an athlete’s foot infection smolder, the harder it may be to eradicate.

In the old days, pharmacists often recommended something called Whitfield’s ointment. It mostly contained benzoic acid and salicylic acid. Then along came Desenex (undecylenic acid). Such products could hold the fungus at bay but cures could be hard to accomplish. Like that an unwelcome relative this infection has a bad habit of showing up uninvited and staying longer than desired.

Now there are even more effective antifungal creams, ointments, powders and sprays. There is tolnaftate (Absorbine Antifungal Foot Cream and Powder, Aftate, Desenex Spray Liquid, Dr. Scholl’s Athlete’s Foot, Tinactin, Zeasorb-AF), clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), and miconazole (Micatin). Any of these products should be quite effective at controlling athlete’s foot, but to completely eradicate the infection you will have to be patient and persistent. And even if you follow instructions carefully it is likely the fungus will eventually return.

Home remedies can be surprisingly effective for treating athlete’s foot and they are usually a lot less expensive than the drugstore treatment. People have used antiperspirant on their tootsies to kill bacteria and keep the feet dry. Others tell us that soaking the feet in strong tea can be helpful. Tea tree oil has antifungal properties and seems helpful, though some people may be allergic to this natural product.

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  1. TU

    soaking feet past toes in listerine for a minute each keeps the crunk away from my feet for a while.

  2. KO

    I have had chronic athletes foot for years. Sometimes it gets better but it never goes totally away. For me, what keeps it at bay is to blow dry my feet after a shower. I always felt I did a good job towel drying my feet knowing that moisture was my enemy but the blow drying is superior — by virtue of the greatly improved results.

  3. SW

    Did you have athlete’s foot to begin with?

  4. Beverly

    what proportions did you use for the peroxide/baking soda/ epsom salt mix?

  5. JS

    I had a wicked case of a.f. that wouldn’t go away. Even used Lotrimin & all other otc products that helped a little but not completely. Out of shear desperation, I stopped using the OTC creams and just wrapped my infected toes with Kleenex tissue and changed them at least once a day. The athletes foot disappeared completely. Maybe it was a combination of both OTC and Kleenex??? Or maybe the Kleenex just keep the moisture away.

  6. A Gonzalez

    A few months ago a treatment for foot fungus (athletes foot included) was mentioned in the Tribune in your column. The treatment included Epsom salts and vinegar in specified proportions. I can’t seem to find that recipe. Are the specifics available?

  7. JM

    I use a drop of 30/70 mixture of mouth wash and hand lotion between my toes each night. No athletes foot since I started using it.

  8. TDB

    I have a foot/toenail fungus that I have had for years. My left foot is much worse than my right — but both have big calluses, dark, thick toenails. My doctor has prescribed Laminex but I am afraid to use it because of the adverse side effects on one’s liver. I’ve heard that soaking one’s feet in Listerine and white vinegar can help, but I don’t know the proportions to use. Can you tell me?
    Thank you.

  9. MM

    I’ve tried vick’s on the bottoms of the feet & in between the toes, then cover in a white cotton sock. This relieved the itching & flakiness of the skin. You see results in a couple of days.
    I’ve also tried perioxide, baking soda, epsom salt in warm water to soften the feet & it leaves your feet baby smooth & whitens your toe nails too.

  10. sheila

    This has worked for me – since athlete’s foot is a fungus. Try using baking soda – it will neutralize the fungus. I wash my feet in the shower using a handful of dry baking soda on each foot. Rubbing it in with my hands and especially between the toes and around the toes – it works for me! It stopped the itching for me. For your toe you may want to soak it everyday until you see results. I would say at least 2 cups of baking soda to enough warm water to come up to your ankles. Baking soda is so cheap. All the best!

  11. Britt M

    My husband has a very ugly-looking big toe; it’s brown and flaky and thick. I am not sure if its athlete’s food or some other fungus, but I am looking for a remedy to return that toe to normal (which seems impossible right now.) But we’ll try.
    Thanks, Britt

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