That old fungus foot feeling
By KATE WALTER
The point of taking a shower is to get clean, right?
People use soap, shampoo, foamy fruit-scented body washes and loofah scrubs thinking they are washing off all of those icky germs. What probably is not thought about is that by just stepping into the shower, the body could be picking up all sorts of yucky, problem-causing fungi that will cause very unhappy feet.
No matter how clean a shower may seem to be, it's probably not as clean as it should be. Taking a shower without wearing flip-flops or shower shoes leaves poor feet vulnerable to diseases like athlete's foot, plantar warts and foot fungus, any of which would definitely force a person to choose snow boots over open-toed sandals.
athlete's foot, also called tinea pedis, is the most common problem that can be picked up in a public shower or locker room. athlete's foot is also a very common problem here at Notre Dame, according to inpatient nurse Sally Smous. athlete's foot causes all sorts of side-effects, including itching, cracking, burning and inflammation.
The disease is caused by a fungus that prefers moist, warm skin. The hot and wet environment between the toes is a perfect breeding ground for the fungus. athlete's foot is mildly contagious, which means that if a person walks barefoot into a shower previously used by someone with athlete's foot, that person could easily walk out with athlete's foot.
Once a victim gets athlete's foot, he or she could technically have it forever. The rash might seem to disappear, but really the fungus could just be hiding, waiting to strike again when least expected.
athlete's foot can, however, be controlled. There are antifungal liquids, creams and ointments that can be bought at any drugstore that will cure most cases of athlete's foot. Some cases, though, are more severe and require an antifungal medication called griseofulvin, which is taken orally. Some people also believe that more natural treatments can cure athlete's foot just as well. Certain herbs, including tea tree oil and garlic, are known to have fungus controlling abilities.
If experimenting with any of these treatments is undesired, there are several important ways to avoid ever getting athlete's foot.
u Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and locker rooms.
u Wear well-ventilated shoes with ventilation holes to keep feet dry. (Remember that the fungus that causes athlete's foot loves warm moist areas.)
u Do not wear shoes made of synthetic materials such as vinyl or rubber.
u Alternate shoes.
u Change wet shoes immediately.
u Do not store shoes in plastic when you're not wearing them.
u Wear cotton socks that keep away moisture.
u Change damp socks.
u Do not wear nylons because they don't allow for evaporation.
Even if lucky enough to avoid getting athlete's foot, there are still several other reasons not to step into a shower with bare feet. One reason is to avoid getting warts.
Plantar warts, also known as Verruca Vulgaris, are benign tumors caused by a virus in the outer skin layer. They too are mildly contagious, which means that the virus that causes Plantar warts could be waiting to infect other feet in one of many showers throughout any college campus.
Plantar warts are caused by the papilloma virus, which stimulates some cells to grow more rapidly than normal. They can begin as small as one millimeter, but can grow to be much larger. They have a rough surface and clearly defined borders. While most warts are painless and do not itch, they are also rather difficult to get rid of. Also, the removal process can be painful.
One way to get rid of warts in called cryotherepy, which involves freezing cells to destroy them. This process usually requires two to five weekly office visits, and can be painful. Another process is known as electrosurgery, which uses heat to destroy cells. Electrosurgery can usually be completed in one office visit, but the healing time is much longer than with cryotherepy, and there is a greater possibility of scarring. Other treatment possibilities include chemicals, such as mild salicylic acid, that should be applied twice a day for four to six weeks.
Sometimes, however, it is not necessary to have any treatment. Twenty percent of all warts disappear by themselves within one month. Even without treatment, the majority of warts disappear in 2 to 3 years.
If having warts burned or frozen off is frightening, or if applying acid to one's feet is not an enjoyable task, follow these simple rules: Don't touch warts on other people; don't wear other people's shoes; and always wear appropriate footwear in public locker rooms or showers.
A third possible problem that one might encounter if when forgetting to protect feet in public locker rooms or showers is foot fungus. Someone with foot fungus will experience dry, itchy feet or white lesions.
Foot fungus can be taken care of with antifungal powders or creams, or a doctor can prescribe a stronger treatment. Foot fungus, like athlete's foot and plantar warts, can be avoided by covering the foot area before taking a shower.
There are also problems that one might "run" into even outside the dangerous areas of public locker rooms and showers. Corns and calluses could develop due to the way that you walk or improperly fitted shoes. They could also simply be hereditary. To get rid of corns and calluses, the first thing one must do is get better fitting shoes. One can also soak feet in water, use pumice scrubs or use a non-prescription type medicine like Dr. Scholl's salicylic acid pads.
Some people may also just have sweaty, smelly feet, which could also be caused by heredity. Other possible causes include stress, hormonal imbalance, tight or synthetic shoes and nylon stockings. To cure sweaty, smelly feet, remember to always wash and dry those feet, especially between the toes. One can also use deodorant insoles or soak feet in tea (two tea bags per quart warm water).
A final foot problem is also one that is very common in the college setting — ingrown toenails. Nurse Smous simply stated, "A lot of students here just don't cut their toenails properly."
With the exception of heredity factor, all of the above problems can be avoided quite easily. Basically, if red, itchy, painful, burning, smelly, bumpy, flaky and inflamed feet are unattractive, both visually and aurally, slip on flip-flops before walking into the shower.
All Scene Stories for Monday, September 6, 1999