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Athlete’s Foot (aka Jungle Rot)

I could not find much information online, but here’s to educate you all of this common condition from a backpacker’s perspective. Note that I am not a medical professional. Consult your physician/Dermatologist for more info.

What Happened?

After backpacking Yosemite in early July, I came home to some red, bumpy dots on the sides of my left foot. My heels were both dry, but that’s normal with wearing sandals a lot. A week later, the skin started cracking like a sunburn, and like one, I peeled back the skin thinking that new ones will show through eventually. It was not itchy — just dry.

Two months passed, and it didn’t get better. Hiking became painful when the foot was exposed to water, and it kept rubbing against my sandals. I got a “textbook example” of Athlete’s Foot, the doctor said. I may have gotten it from a public RV-park shower after the trip.

“Without the proper environment (warmth and moisture), the fungus may not easily infect the skin. Up to 70% of the population may develop athlete’s foot at some time. An infection by athlete’s foot fungi does not confer any resistance to subsequent infections.” *

The images below were photographed on September 3, 2014:

Prevention and Recovery

  1. When backpacking, wear wool socks, not cotton. Wool wicks moisture away from your foot better. This was the first time I was backpacking in cotton socks.
  2. Dry your feet and boots often when taking a break. It truly feels good when you do. I was already doing this.
  3. At home, spray Lysol into your boots and be sure to let it dry and/or use a hair dryer.
  4. Athlete’s Foot doesn’t infect just athletes, and it doesn’t just affect the toes either. See #5 below.
  5. When using a public facility, such as showers, pools, wear sandals. I got off my sandals when entering the shower area at the RV park. This is probably how I got infected.
  6. The Fungus that causes Athlete’s Foot can survive in your socks/boots for 2 months. As such, even after you’re cured from it, you can get re-infected by your socks or shoes… Lysol your boots for a few days. For a couple months, wash your socks at high heat. Dry them at high heat.
  7. Lysol the bath tub so that others won’t get infected. Disinfect floors and vacuum the carpets. Don’t share towels.
  8. Don’t wear the same shoes every day. Wear light, well-ventilated shoes.
  9. Do not apply Cortizone … it’ll actually make your condition worse by feeding the fungus.
  10. Athlete’s Foot can also spread to hands (Tinea manuum), groin area, and toe nails. Use a separate towel for your reproductive area and buttock to prevent infections there.
  11. If treatment doesn’t work after 4 weeks, contact the doctor. Apply medication at the same time each day.
  12. Wash your feet every day. Wash your hands after touching your feet.
  13. “If [the] athlete’s foot is mild, your doctor may suggest using an over-the-counter antifungal ointment, lotion, powder or spray. If [the] athlete’s foot doesn’t respond, you may need a prescription-strength medication to apply to [the] feet. Severe infections may require antifungal pills that you take by mouth.” *

Can you still hike while having Athlete’s Foot?

No information has yet been found on that topic, but most likely not. The fungus thrives on moisture and warmth, helping it spread further. However, I have done a difficult, all-day hike 3 weeks after infection, and I made sure to change my wool socks 4 times that day.

What Worked For Me

  • After I went to see a Dermatologist in September, she stated that I had a classic case of Athlete’s Foot. I was prescribed “Ecoza 1% Foam“, and with a coupon she gave, I was able to get it for free. The coupon also included a free refill. She said to not use Cortizone as that would actually feed the fungus.
    • Before going to sleep, I applied the Ecoza foam to my feet (between the toes and over the nail openings too), let them dry, then put over socks to prevent the infection from spreading onto the bed and to my wife. Mind you, it was hot at times, and so I also turned on a fan to keep my feet cool and dry.
    • Before going to work, I washed my feet, dried them, then applied the foam. After the foam dried, I put on socks and went to work with Keen Water Shoes to ensure my feet stayed as dry as possible. Every day after returning home, I’d use Lysol to disinfect the shoes, and stood them up vertically to dry. I’d wear another pair of shoes to work the next day. In essence, I swapped my shoes every day to ensure the fungus died before I put them back on again. The Dermatologist said that people who walk barefoot in general don’t seem to get Athlete’s Foot often — basically: keep your feet dry.
    • My hands looked like they were infected too because they were showing small, blister-like bumps (red, bumpy spots). After applying treatment to my feet, I washed my hands with soap, dried, and applied the same Ecoza foam to my hands (between the fingers and over the nail openings too) overnight. I washed them in the morning. I also used Lotrimin overnight at times. I avoided rubbing my eyes at all times.
  • For the first 4 days, I used my own Foot Soak remedy of water + lots of salt while watching TV with my family. On the first day, I also added Vinegar, but ran out of it. From what I read, saltwater or Vinegar water works. I figured that using the foot soak plus the doctor’s prescription would increase the chances of recovery.
  • For showers, I used a separate towel for the groin area, and one to solely dry my feet with. I also used Lysol Disinfectant to spray all over the bath tub, the towel, and the floors. I sometimes also sprayed onto the bed sheets and any other area my feet may have had contact with.
  • I wore socks nearly at all times to ensure my family would not get infected, and when the feet felt sweaty, I’d take them off and rest the feet on my disinfected sandals instead.
  • I also vacuumed the carpet a few times a week.
  • I made sure my family recognized the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot so they could be treated as soon as they may get infected too.
  • I bought a UV light to check my feet for the fungus, and initially some of the edges of the dead skin glowed bright-blue. I also saw some tiny dots all around the infected area. However, after a few days, I wasn’t sure if the glow was actually caused by fungus, but perhaps just by lint. I returned the UV light.
  • I kept monitoring the dead skin areas, the red spots that dotted my feet, and the small blisters on my fingers — over a course of a month, I seemed to finally have been cured. I had to get a refill for the Ecoza 1% Foam bottle.
  • During the treatment period and until at least a month after my feet looked cured, my wife was instructed to use the other shower with the rest of the family until at least 30 days after my feet looked cured. The whole family was also instructed to either wear socks or sandals at all times. My laundry was done separately from the rest of the family. In addition, my socks and towels were washed separate from the rest of my clothes (with Bleach and High Heat whenever possible), and dried with high heat. We ensured that my laundry was always washed AFTER theirs’ was done, and if possible, with Bleach. We continued this precaution until the end of October 2014 (infection looked cured at the end of September.)

Home-Made Remedies

A Facebook friend (see more info from him below) shared the following Foot Soak recipe that helped him recover his feet within a week. This solution reportedly also treats any fungus lodged between the toe nails:

  • 4 liters hot water, Some shampoo
  • 1/2 cup Borax, 1/2 – 1 cup Apple Cider vinegar
  • Soak feet for 45 minutes, 3 times a week

A Facebook Friend’s Notes

A friend provided the below information after having been dealing with the issue since at least 2013. His infection went all the way into his intestines via the crotch after using the towel of another infected person.


His Research Notes (Edited for Readability)

  • Foot Soak (more info)
    • “Place a towel on the floor and watch a TV show. Buy a Dr. Scholl’s Foot sanding paddle, and after the bath, sand the balls of your feet. It feels better and kills and removes the dead skin. My feet are soft now. Really nice. I re-use my foot bath liquid 4 times by pouring out 1 ltr and adding back 1 ltr of heated borax and Apple cider vinegar. It cannot live in that stuff, so don’t worry about reuse. Soak the Dr. Scholl’s sander in the solution too. Adding alcohol works too. If you see the fungus in your toe nails, soak them right away for 1 hour for 3-5 consecutive days. Then 3 times a week thereafter until it grows out.”
  • A Note About Laundry
    • “Heat kills the fungus. Use hot water and hot dryer cycle. Line drying is nice, but doesn’t help. I buy a large box of Baking soda and use 1/2 cup with each load. Keep your socks separate from your underwear and towels, and keep them separate from other people. Borax is a preventative (but doesn’t outright kill it), and makes your laundry fresh.”
    • “Once the rings are gone, you may not be cured or it may be lurking in the bathroom/socks, shoes. Continue to disinfect for months.”
  • Disinfectants
    • “Lysol – yellow concentrate: dilute 3/8 cup to 2 ltrs water. Spray the solution around showers, toilets, and bathroom floors. Clean your floors with it, but don’t use it for too long or too much because some ingredients are on Carcinogenic warning sites. Don’t use it on your body.”
    • “50% or 70% rubbing alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide have been very effective for us. Oddly, 100% rubbing alcohol did not work that well. Swab it on you with cotton pads 2 times or more a day. This is better for you than Nail polish remover (Asetone is not good for you at all, especially in sensitive areas or for prolonged use.) You can even dilute the alcohol or hydrogen peroxide with water. The alcohol stops bed sweats in hospitals, and using it on you keeps you dry, preventing further infection. Baby powder and using a hair dryer help too.”
    • “Apple cider vinegar works fantastic. The fungus hates this stuff. Too acidic to survive. The real orangy type works better than the Clearer type. Soak and wash cloths in it. Use for foot soak as I described.”
    • “Mint in any kind of paste workes quite well.”
    • “Coconut oil or Lotions with coconut in it. Even eating grated coconut works well. Cetacilic acid is in coconut and that eats the fungus up.”
  • A Note About Prescriptions
    • “Most of the creams prescribed by the doctors affect the liver. My father is suffering because of it. So we are going the Homeopathic route.”
    • “I have been told that some varieties do not glow under UV light and some do. My father is stubborn and getting old, and he doesn’t want to take showers. He makes it worse by doing this. There are three or more infections that have the exact same symptoms of Athlete’s Foot but are not Ringworm. They still come from yeast and are in the same family, but are germs and not fungus. I think that is what my dad has. One is called an imposter virus. I think he was going for fungus but couldn’t kill it since his infection is caused by a germ.”
  • Camping or Public Showers
    • “Wear sandals. This helps even at home because it elevates your feet above where the fungus sits. I started to do this at home and it helped a lot. Carry a bottle of alcohol/Lysol/Borax powder with you. Disinfect the shower when no one is looking and also before you leave so you won’t infect others. If you don’t shower, you will sweat. Sweat feeds the fungus. It is a Catch-22. You could shower in the bush with a portable.”

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