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  • V. Chang

Public pools, showers and locker rooms: Perfect Conditions for Fungal Infections

Hi everyone! How's your summer going? As the temperatures soar up, we tend to seek the water to cool down and beat the heat. But this also increases your chance of catching fungal skin infections.

In public shared areas, such as areas around swimming pools, in shower rooms and even locker room floors, they provide the perfect conditions for fungus to thrive due to the moisture and warm temperatures.

According to the Ontario Society of Chiropodists, around 5% of Canadians have foot infections every year.

What are fungal infections? They are contagious infections caused by fungus that grow on or in the top layer of skin. They can be spread to other people even if you do not have the infection! The most common form of fungal infections is athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis.

Peeling and cracking of skin by athlete's foot. Image from

How do they occur? This condition are caused by long exposure to moisture, sweaty feet, minor skin and nail injury on feet and direct contact with infected person or contaminated surfaces; which can be simply going barefoot in public areas or sharing of shoes, socks and towels with an infected person.

What are the symptoms? A common sign of athlete's foot is itching, stinging or burning sensations between toes or soles. There are three types of the condition:

1. Toe web - this usually occurs between fourth and fifth toes

Symptoms include scaly, peeling and cracking skin, and bacterial infection

2. Moccasin type - this type starts off with slight soreness

The skin on bottom or heel can become thick and cracked. In severe cases, toenails can be infected and will thicken, crumble and fall out of nail bed.

3. Vesicular type - the third type begins with abrupt occurrence of blisters, and it will likely develop bacterial infection.

How can it be treated? Treating athlete's foot will vary between individuals as each infection is caused by unique fungi species, thus there is no all-inclusive treatment. Commonly, it is treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal lotion, cream or spray. In severe cases, the doctor will prescribe prescription pills or cream to apply. As an alternative, tea tree oil can also treat athlete's foot, but as a precaution, this can cause skin dermatitis in certain individuals. Note that before you take any form of treatment, please consult a doctor or foot specialist first as not all skin problems are athlete's foot.

Lastly, how do we prevent fungal infections from occurring in the first place? We have some suggestions:

- wear sandals in public shared areas (showers, pool decks)

- do NOT share socks, shoes or towels with other individuals

- daily care of feet: wash with soap and water, and dry thoroughly, especially between toes

- wear socks and shoes with breathable materials

- air out feet when at home by going barefooted

- change socks when sweaty

- alternate between 2 pairs of shoes; wearing each pair every other day to give shoes time to dry out between each use

- apply talcum powder on your feet to help dry the feet

Stay safe and healthy this summer! Remember, foot health is essential to our overall health, especially for seniors!


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