Why Nurses Are Prone to Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is one of the most common fungal infections that can afflict the human body. Also called tinea pedis, this fungus is found in many public locations such as gym floors, locker rooms, swimming pools, nail salons, and airport security lines. In fact, all public flooring on which individuals may walk barefoot is a prime source of fungal infection. Once an individual’s body has been infected, personal socks and clothing can harbor the tinea pedis fungus. Studies have found that nearly 70% of the population will experience athlete’s foot at some point in their life.

Once acquired, athlete’s foot can become a chronic condition, especially for nurses. The foot fungus grows in the warm, moist environment of feet encased in nursing shoes. All nurses will attest that the extreme amount of time spent walking during a nursing shift leads to “warm feet”. This heat builds up in nursing shoes and has little outlet for venting. Nurses who wear pantyhose instead of socks experience more heat buildup and moisture in shoes as the synthetic hosiery material does not wick moisture that is generated during prolonged walking away from the foot.

The replacement of the traditional nursing uniform dress with the more comfortable uniform scrubs has led to a decrease in nurses who wear pantyhose. Socks have now become a staple nursing uniform accessory. However, socks made of synthetic materials pose the same problem as the previously used pantyhose. To ensure maximum wicking of foot moisture, socks should be constructed of 100% cotton or of specially engineered moisture wicking materials.

Because of the large amount of moisture generated during a typical nursing shift, nurses need to ensure that their nursing shoes “air out” for at least 24 hours and are completely dry before putting them on again. A disinfectant spray to the inside of uniform shoes after each use is recommended to kill bacteria in between wearing. Having two pair of nursing shoes and alternating their usage is a good way of letting nursing footwear completely dry.

Nurses, for whom it is impossible to alleviate heat and moisture generation in their nursing shoes, it is important that steps to control and/or prevent athlete’s foot are practiced. These steps include:

• Wash the feet daily
• Dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, with a clean towel
• Always use a clean towel and never share towels
• Use antifungal sprays on feet and shoes
• Spray shoes with a disinfectant and allow to dry before reuse
• Go barefoot at home as much as possible
• Avoid wearing synthetic or tight footwear that don’t allow the feet to breathe
• Wear sandals to protect the feet from contamination in public areas such as gyms, swimming pools, and public showers
• Wear socks made of 100% cotton or moisture wicking materials
• Wear clothing, particularly scrubs that are made of 100% cotton or cotton blends that are not tight fitting causing moisture to trap in groin and waist areas
• Change your socks if they get damp, or at least once a day
• Keep home, and particularly bathroom surfaces clean, especially showers and tubs

It is important to control Athlete’s foot as this fungus can spread to other areas of the body, including hands, mouth, scalp, vagina and groin If you have Athlete’s foot, dry all other areas of the body after a shower before drying your feet to avoid spreading the fungus to other vulnerable areas of the body. It is possible to treat Athlete’s foot yourself at home by using nonprescription medications such a Lamisil, Tinactin or Micatin. Other home remedies such as foot soaks of vinegar or Clorox solutions have also proved effective in some cases. In conjunction with the tips outlined above, it is possible to control chronic foot fungal infections and minimize discomfort.

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