Can Kids Get Athlete’s Foot? (Quick Answer!)

By KidSpaceStuff •  Updated: 07/14/24 •  6 min read

Athletes’ foot, a fungal infection commonly associated with adults, often raises questions regarding children’s susceptibility. 

Can our young ones also fall victim to this itchy ailment? The answer might surprise many.

In this article, we will delve into the mysteries of Athlete’s Foot, its impact on kids, and how to manage it should they ever encounter the condition. Prepare to be informed and empowered.

Now, Can Kids Get Athlete’s Foot?

Yes, children can indeed get Athlete’s Foot. 

This common fungal infection often affects people who frequent warm, damp environments, and children are no exception. It is more prevalent in older children but can affect kids of all ages.

Understanding Athlete’s Foot

An athlete’s foot, scientifically referred to as tinea pedis, is a common fungal skin infection. The condition is caused by dermatophytes, fungi that thrive in warm, damp environments. They are particularly suited to the insides of shoes and socks in areas such as locker rooms and public showers.

An athlete’s foot often presents as a rash, typically beginning between the toes. 

The infection can spread through direct contact or indirectly through contaminated surfaces or objects, such as shoes, towels, or shower floors. Scratching the infected area can also contribute to its spread, possibly leading to other fungal infections, such as jock itch and ringworm.

Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot in Kids

The symptoms of athlete’s foot in kids are quite similar to those seen in adults. Key indicators of this condition include:

  1. Redness and Inflammation: One of the first signs of an athlete’s foot is typically a reddening of the skin, particularly between the toes or on the soles of the feet. This is often accompanied by inflammation or swelling.
  2. Flaky or Peeling Skin: The affected areas often become flaky or begin to peel. The skin might also appear cracked or scaly.
  3. Itching and Burning: These are classic symptoms of an athlete’s foot. Kids may frequently scratch their feet or complain of a burning sensation.
  4. Blisters: In some cases, blisters may form on the feet. These can be quite painful, and the condition can spread if they burst.
  5. Changes to the Toenails: Athlete’s foot can also affect the toenails, making them appear thick and discolored, often turning yellowish.
  6. Odor: The affected foot may sometimes emit a noticeable and unpleasant odor.

Prevention Methods

Preventing an athlete’s foot involves strategies to keep the feet dry, clean, and away from fungi-friendly environments. Here are some of the most effective prevention methods:

  1. Maintain Good Foot Hygiene: Wash feet thoroughly with soap and water daily. It’s especially important to clean between the toes where fungi can thrive. After washing, ensure to dry the feet completely, as dampness is ideal for fungal growth.
  2. Wear Breathable Footwear: Choose shoes made of materials that allow air circulation, such as leather or canvas. This helps keep the feet dry. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Instead, alternate footwear to allow them time to dry out.
  3. Choose the Right Socks: Wear socks made of moisture-wicking materials to help keep the feet dry. Cotton or wool socks are good choices. Changing socks more than once a day is also advisable if your feet sweat excessively.
  4. Use Antifungal Powders: Using an antifungal powder in the shoes can help prevent fungal growth.
  5. Avoid Barefoot Walking in Public Areas: Damp communal areas like public showers, swimming pool areas, and locker rooms often breed fungi. Wear waterproof sandals or flip-flops in such environments to avoid direct contact with the floor.

Treatment Options

A picture of a doctor treating a person`s athlete's foot

The treatment of an athlete’s foot typically depends on the severity and duration of the condition. Here are the most common treatment options:

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Antifungal Medications

Mild athlete foot cases often respond well to over-the-counter antifungal creams, sprays, powders, or ointments. These are applied directly to the skin (topically) and include active ingredients such as clotrimazole, miconazole, or terbinafine. 

The medication should be used for the recommended duration, even if the symptoms improve before this time, to ensure that the fungus is fully eliminated.

Prescription Antifungal Medications

A doctor may prescribe stronger topical or oral antifungal medications if the infection is severe or doesn’t improve with over-the-counter treatments. These may include medicines like itraconazole or fluconazole.

Good Foot Hygiene

Regardless of the use of medications, maintaining good foot hygiene is crucial for recovery. This involves washing the feet daily, drying them thoroughly (especially between the toes), and keeping them as dry as possible throughout the day.

Home Care Measures

Home care measures include keeping the feet dry, avoiding scratching or picking at the infected areas, not going barefoot in public places, and not sharing personal items like towels or shoes.

Take Note: Even with treatment, an athlete’s foot can be stubborn, and recurrence is common. Continued preventative measures are often needed to keep the infection at bay.

Check out the video below to learn more about the treatment of athlete’s foot.

How to Educate Kids about Athlete’s Foot 

Educating kids about athlete’s foot is crucial to ensure they understand the importance of good foot hygiene and the steps they can take to prevent the infection. Start by explaining what an athlete’s foot is – a common skin infection caused by a fungus that loves to grow in warm, damp places like between our toes.

Then, highlight the symptoms, such as redness, itching, peeling, or even a slight odor from the feet, so they know what to look for. It’s also essential to explain that an athlete’s foot can spread to other people or different parts of the body through direct contact or by touching objects like shoes or towels used by someone with the infection.

Teach them the importance of washing their feet daily and drying them thoroughly, particularly between the toes. Make them understand that they should not share shoes or socks with others and why wearing clean, fresh socks is crucial every day.

Discuss the importance of wearing sandals or flip-flops in public places like swimming pools or communal showers to avoid direct contact with surfaces that may be contaminated.

Also, let them know that if they do get athlete’s foot, it’s not a cause for panic. It can be effectively treated with over-the-counter medications and good foot care.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, can kids get athlete’s foot? Yes. 

Understanding an athlete’s foot is crucial for prevention and treatment. With proper foot hygiene, mindful behaviors, and timely care, this common ailment can be effectively managed and prevented in kids.