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Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2010 Issues

Does my child have athlete’s foot?


Athletes are not the only ones who get the itchy skin rash known as “athlete’s foot.” Anyone can acquire athlete’s foot if their bare feet are exposed to a fungus in the right environment such as wet public/school gym and shower floors. Athlete’s foot is rare in pre-teens.

HT-July2010-Atheletes footAthlete’s foot is a very common rash on the skin of the foot. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot grows on warm, damp surfaces such as around pools, public showers and locker rooms. The fungus can cause infection when it comes in contact with conditions that allow it thrive; for example, on bare damp feet. “Most people, especially teenage boys, are likely to contract athlete’s foot at some point in their lives,” observes Robert Morris, M.D., pediatrician at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

Symptoms include itching; burning; cracked, blistered or peeling areas between the toes; redness and scaling on the soles of the feet; rash that spreads to the instep, and raw skin. Occasionally the open skin can become infected with bacteria that will cause pain and spreading redness. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the foot, including toenails. It can also infect other parts of the body—such as the groin, inner thighs and underarms.

Diagnosis and treatment. Physicians can generally diagnose athlete’s foot just by looking at the infected feet. An over-the-counter, topical antifungal cream will kill the fungus. Athlete’s foot can also be diagnosed by scraping the affected skin and looking at it under a microscope to see if the fungus is present. For infections that involve the sole of the foot, prescription oral medication may be prescribed, Dr. Morris notes.

It is also helpful to wash feet and keep them dry and in the open air to inhibit the fungus from growing. Maintaining a disinfected environment to discourage fungal infection is ideal, but not always feasible.

HT-July2010-Playing Basketball Not all foot skin problems are athlete’s foot. If you suspect your child (especially a pre-teen) has athlete’s foot, it is a good idea to have a doctor take a look in order to make a correct diagnosis.

Talk to your child about how common it is to get athlete’s foot.

“Parents should talk to their children about how common these infections are in order to get them to recognize symptoms and seek treatment before the rash becomes more bothersome and uncomfortable,” Dr Morris advises.

Ways to avoid athlete’s foot:

  • Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes
  • Wear footwear that allows your feet to “breathe”
  • Wear shower sandals or shoes in pool areas, public showers and gyms
  • Use antifungal powder in your sneakers or shoes
  • Keep home bathroom surfaces clean — especially showers and tubs


This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

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