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Athlete's foot - technically known as tinea pedis - is a skin fungus. It occurs exclusively on the feet and is one of the most common infectious diseases in Europe. In Switzerland, around a quarter of adults contract athlete's foot once in their lifetime. So-called filamentous fungi cause itchy, scaly and often weeping spots. Men suffer from this fungus more frequently than women - children contract it much less often than adults. Athlete's foot is harmless. However, if an athlete's foot remains untreated, the risk of developing nail fungus increases.

Athlete's foot is highly contagious: healthy people can contract athlete's foot after coming into contact with a few infected skin flakes from affected people. Hygiene is therefore the top priority in the treatment of athlete's foot. Special products ensure that athlete's foot disappears within a few weeks without any consequences.


Athlete's foot usually develops in a moist environment, for example in the spaces between the outer toes. Shoes that are poorly permeable to air also provide an ideal moist environment for athlete's foot. In many cases, both feet are affected by athlete's foot - typical symptoms are reddened skin, skin weeping, scaling of the skin, formation of blisters or itching.


In many cases, athlete's foot develops between the toes. The athlete's foot often remains unrecognised there for years and can then spread to the whole foot. On the soles, edges or backs of the feet, the affected skin tends to be scaly and keratinised, which is why those affected mistakenly perceive the fungus as dry skin. The rarest form of athlete's foot is blisters that appear in the arch of the foot and contain fluid. Athlete's foot can also be the starting point for fungal infections in other parts of the body - for example on the nails, groin and other areas of the skin.

If the skin between the toes is affected by a fungus, skin damage occurs, which in turn provides an entry point for bacteria. The bacteria can cause erysipelas. The area swells and causes pain and fever. Erysipelas must be treated immediately with antibiotics.


Athlete's foot is caused by filamentous fungi known as dermatophytes. The fungi feed on horny substance and therefore only infect the top layer of the skin. Athlete's foot is highly contagious and is transmitted from person to person. Healthy people can contract athlete's foot after coming into contact with a few infected skin flakes. This often happens where people are barefoot, for example in swimming pools, saunas or hotel rooms. At the same time, the following factors can promote the outbreak of athlete's foot:

  • Frequent wearing of air-impermeable or tight shoes
  • Slight injuries to the skin on the foot
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Circulatory disorders in the legs
  • A weakened immune system


A doctor recognises athlete's foot by inspecting the affected area. For this reason, athlete's foot can also be easily diagnosed and treated by telemedicine. A photo of the affected area helps the telemedicine practitioner to make a diagnosis.
If it is not clear whether it is athlete's foot, a doctor can scrape the affected area of skin and examine the sample for fungi under a microscope. The specialist will rule out the possibility of other diseases - for example, psoriasis, bacterial infections or eczema.


Athlete's foot is harmless, but it does not heal on its own. Specialists use fungicidal agents to treat the disease. The remedies for athlete's foot are available over the counter in pharmacies in the form of ointments, sprays, creams or powders. If only the spaces between the toes are affected, localised treatment is sufficient. If this is not sufficient, those affected can also take an antifungal agent in tablet form after consulting a doctor. Home remedies such as salt or vinegar water can support the treatment of athlete's foot - they cannot treat athlete's foot. Hygiene is the top priority when treating athlete's foot. Shoes should also be cleaned during the treatment of athlete's foot, as the fungal spores can survive in shoes for a long time and thus undo the success of the treatment.


The following measures support the treatment of athlete's foot - but they are also suitable for preventing athlete's foot:
Keep toes dry

  • Wear breathable cotton socks and air-permeable shoes
  • Wear bathing shoes in public facilities such as saunas, hotel rooms or swimming pools
  • Wash socks and towels at 60 degrees

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