Seunga (Jasmine) Han, PharmD Candidate
Athlete’s Foot – What Is It?
In one of our previous articles, we discussed what athlete’s foot is and how to prevent and treat it. You can click here to learn more about it, but we’ll quickly cover what it is as a refresher. Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the feet commonly caused by species such as Trichophytonrubrum, Trichophytonmentagrophytes, and Epidermophytonfloccosum.1
It’s a type of infection that can be transmitted either through direct contact with an infected person or indirectly through contaminated surfaces such as swimming pool decks and gym change rooms. It can also spread to other parts of the body such as the groin and underarm upon contact. Warm, dark, poorly ventilated, and moist environments are conditions that promote fungal growth.1
Tea Tree Oil
Previously, we’ve discussed some topical antifungal agents (ciclopirox 1%, clotrimazole 1%, ketoconazole 2%, miconazole 2% and terbinafine 1%) that are commonly used to treat athlete’s foot.1
How about tea tree oil? Have you ever looked online to find home remedies to treat athlete’s foot? Is there evidence behind its use?
To answer this question, we did a quick search which led to the conclusion that there is no evidence suggesting that tea tree oil is effective in the treatment of athlete’s foot.1 One study suggested that using 10% tea tree oil cream twice a day may help reduce the symptoms associated with athlete’s foot, such as scaling, inflammation, itching, and burning. However, its application didn’t cure the infection and was no better than placebo.2,3 Additionally, if you choose to use tea tree oil cream, it’s recommended that you don’t apply it to open lesions.1
We also looked at some other remedies such as garlic cream and hydrogen peroxide; however, there are currently no studies or evidence to support their use in treating athlete’s foot.
The Bottom Line
Athlete’s foot is an infection commonly seen in adults, athletes, and soldiers, and occurs more frequently in males than females. During the summer, the risk of this infection may go up due to higher number of people going to public pools and gyms. Based on the most recent evidence, it appears that topical or oral antifungal agents are the best treatment option to treat athlete’s foot, and there are little to no evidence suggesting the use of other remedies such as tea tree oil, garlic cream or hydrogen peroxide. Leaving athlete’s foot untreated can lead to complications such as chronic infection of the foot, bacterial co-infection, or even spread of the infection to the limbs. This is why it’s always important talk to your healthcare provider to receive the appropriate treatment.
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