Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Words Regarding Preparedness, Fungal Infections and Athlete's Foot

(Rendering: ) This is a rather severe case.

     In an emergency or a disaster, there are a number of disorders and afflictions that can get a foothold more easily than in normal times.   Although 70% of the population will get athlete's foot at some time or another, a disaster is one of those times where it could really become established and become difficult to eradicate.    Theoretically, no one dies from athlete's foot, but being severely uncomfortable and having burning cracked feet and toes can become a region in which a bacterial infection could also get a foothold, and then serious consequences may ensue.    Having burning, itchy feet can also be a barrier to thinking clearly or walking large distances, both of which may be essential for your family's survival.

                        Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the toes and of the webbing of the toes.  It can spread to other regions of the feet and to the heels.  In fact, sometimes thick calluses with peeling on the heels and sides of the feet are actually a sign of a fungal infection which has spread from the original athlete's foot infection.   It favors damp, dark regions, and is certainly contagious.  Many people get it from gymns, school showers, hotel showers, etc.  It is also possible to get it from a spouse, or by laundering your child's socks with your own.   To avoid athlete's foot, use flip flops in hotel, gymn, and vacation showers.   Use white socks whenever you can.  (They wick moisture away from the toes better than dark ones.)    Have family members wash their own clothing once a week, rather than running combined family loads a couple of times a week.   Never try on shoes without socks.   When you buy new shoes, or consigned ones, always spray the inside with disinfectant and let them sit outside to dry.  This will take care of any fungi or bacteria which were on the feet of the last person who tried on or wore that pair of shoes.  Athlete's foot is not just one fungus, but many.  Some cases are fairly easily eradicated and others can be quite challenging.  Avoidance is always best, if possible.  The medical term for athlete's foot is tinea pedis.

                Our family lives in the South on a farm where I am sure we have an abundance of different kinds of fungi growing in fields and near livestock.  Wearing boots to muck stalls and to work there tends to hold perspiration in.    In addition, occasionally a mucky wet bath makes its way into a muck boot, as under heavy use, they don't last forever.  This is one time where a daily shower is probably a necessity in order to wash the offending fungus off the foot entirely.  The muck boot should be hosed off outside, and then placed on a boot tray in the house to dry.  White socks should be changed daily and in the hot Summer, possibly twice daily at times.   In such conditions, when the person is in the house, the feet should air in something like sandals.  This will provide the best chance at athlete's foot avoidance entirely.

              Of course, in an emergency, the ideal might be impossible.   People may be wearing socks and boots to stay warm.  If the heat is off in a cold climate, they might sleep in boots !   They may not be able to shower daily during an emergency.   They may be walking great distances and perspiring without a change of socks as a possibility. If you and your family evacuate from home during a wildfire, you may simply have the shoes and socks on your feet.     Walking through flooded areas may introduce your feet to a variety of fungi to which they have never been exposed, and an overt fungal infection may occur.

            In emergencies what can we do to limit or to try to prevent fungal infections ?  

1.  Consider passing on plastic, vinyl or "man made" shoes.   Some of these hold more perspiration than others and can predispose to fungal infections.   Leather or cloth shoes might be better.

2. If your feet get wet, try to wash and dry them as soon as possible.  Consider a simple foot powder before putting on new socks.  If you don't have foot powder, mix some baking soda with cornstarch in equal amounts.  This will help to keep them dry.  You can mix the two in a shaker container in advance.

3.  Alternate two pairs of shoes.  One can be drying while you are wearing the other.

4. Stock up on white cotton socks.

5. Place absorbent lamb's wool from a drug store between the affected toes.  This will help air circulate in these areas.

6.  Soak your feet in two quarts of water to one cup of white or cider vinegar daily.  This makes it difficult
     for the fungi to replicate.  Dry feet well afterward.
     (If you are out of vinegar, try two quarts of water to a tablespoon of salt.)   Soak for 20 minutes daily.

7. Clean your shower with bleach and rinse well to help avoid reinfection and the infection of your family members.

8. Consider washing your socks separately from your regular clothing and underwear and wash them with a half a cup of bleach added.  (You can't do this with black or colored socks.)

The following medications are available over the counter, and will treat and eradicate most cases of
athlete's foot and simple fungal infections in the heel or in many other parts of the body.

 1. Clotrimazole   (follow the directions on the tube or bottle.)
 2.  Miconazole   (follow the directions on the tube or bottle.)
 3.  Tolnaftate      (follow the directions on these too. Some may                   
 4. Terbinafine      also come in spray liquids or spray powders.)

Be very careful not to inhale the antifungal sprays as they can be quite dangerous to the lungs.

  Most cases of fungal infections of the feet will respond to regular use of one or two of the drugs mentioned above.  Make sure that your Evacuation medical kit, and your Home Medical Kit has at least two of these medications.  If unopened, they will last for about five years after expiration date and will still be effective.

     Once you have treated and cleared a fungal infection of the feet, toes, or heels, you have no improved resistance to subsequent infections, and so they may occur again, either following reinfection with the same fungus, or infection with another fungus entirely.

       Diabetics and those with impaired resistance due to other medical issues are more prone to fungal infections.  Those who eat higher sugar diets also are more prone to fungal infections.  Eating yogurt is said to be helpful with regard to prevention.  Those on antibiotics are also at risk for fungal infections either on feet, vaginally, or elsewhere.   If you are taking antibiotics, buy some lactobacillus acidophilus to supplement the positive bacteria the antibiotic will inadvertently destroy.

        If the foot becomes reddened and infected, then you need to see a doctor, especially if you are diabetic.   Fungal infections can break the skin sufficiently to allow a bacterial infection to get started.

       The take away from this post is to stock two of the four listed topical treatments for fungal infections of the feet in your emergency kit. Buy enough to treat for six weeks.  Consider getting it at your dollar store as you might wish to have enough for a couple of family members.   Also stock extra salt and a bottle of extra vinegar for soaks.  Consider stocking cotton or lambs wool to encourage circulation of air between toes.

       The absolute worst time to have severely itching and burning feet is during a disaster where water, and clean clothing and shoes may be harder to come by.   Anticipating this possibility now is an important simple task which can be worth a great deal to you or your family later.


Sandy said...


Have you used Tea Tree Oil to help with athlete's foot?

JaneofVirginia said...

No, I haven't but both Tea Tree Oil and Apinol inhibit the replication of fungi, viruses and bacteria. Both are likely to work, particularly with milder cases. Most families don't stock Tea Tree Oil or Apinol, but they should probably stock both. Thanks for posting, Sandy !

Its Time to Live said...

This may seem odd but it works. Vicks Vapor Rub takes away the itch and helps cure athlete's foot as well. It is inexpensive and stores almost forever. A little goes a long way. Not to get to personal but it also works for Jock Itch or whatever else you want to call it when it leaves the foot and migrates upward.

JaneofVirginia said...

Menthol, which is an ingredient is helpful in a lot of anti-itch creams. (It's also in Noxzema which is a great treatment for the itch of sunburn. This should be something we should all have in the kit also, because it has multiple uses.

Stephen said...

Taking notes here, thanks, great advice.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks, Stephen.

Elango Devy said...

hi nice post, got a valuable information about foot care. Really it is a useful information for diabetic patients.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks for posting. I am glad this was helpful.