Athlete's foot

Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection that affects many people at some time in their lives. The condition easily spreads in public places such as communal showers, locker rooms and fitness centers.

Usually this condition affects the spaces between your toes, but it can spread to your toenails and the soles and sides of your feet. The infection can also involve your palms and fingers. Although it occurs primarily in adults, athlete's foot can affect children.

Changing socks, keeping your feet dry and alternating shoes can help you prevent athlete's foot. Often, athlete's foot responds well to over-the-counter treatments you can apply to your skin. More severe cases may require oral medications.
Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of athlete's foot can be numerous, although you probably won't have all of them:
  1. Itching, stinging and burning between your toes, especially the last two toes
  2. Itching, stinging and burning on the soles of your feet
  3. Itchy blisters
  4. Cracking and peeling skin, especially between your toes and on the soles of your feet
  5. Excessive dryness of the skin on the bottoms or sides of the feet
  6. Nails that are thick, crumbly, ragged, discolored or pulling away from the nail bed

A group of fungi called dermatophytes causes athlete's foot. These organisms sprout tendril-like extensions that infect the superficial layer of the skin. In response to this fungal growth, the basal layer of the skin produces more skin cells than usual. As these cells push to the surface, the skin becomes thick and scaly. Most often, the more the fungi spread, the more scales your skin produces, causing the ring of advancing infection to form.

Also called tinea pedis, ringworm of the foot and dermatophytosis, athlete's foot is closely related to other fungal skin conditions, most with similar names. Tinea is a type of fungus, and pedis is the Latin word for "foot." Other common tinea infections include:

  1. Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). This form causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash on the top layer of your skin.
  2. Jock itch (tinea cruris). This form affects your genitals, inner thighs and buttocks.
  3. Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis). This form is most common in children and involves red, itchy patches on the scalp, leaving bald patches.

Risk factors
The organisms that cause athlete's foot thrive in damp, close environments created by thick, tight shoes that can pinch the toes together and create warm, moist areas in between them. Damp socks and shoes increase the risk. Warm, humid conditions that promote heavy sweating favor its spread.

The fungus is carried on fragments of skin or other particles that contaminate floors, mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes, shoes and other surfaces. Plastic shoes in particular provide a welcoming environment for fungal growth and infection. Person-to-person contact is another means of transmission. Even household pets can pass along fungal infections. Although transmission can occur within a household, the infection is more commonly passed along in public areas — locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools, communal baths and showers. Not everyone who carries the fungus develops signs and symptoms of athlete's foot.

Vulnerability probably involves a genetic component, but those who are known to be more vulnerable include people with weakened immune systems, for example, people with diabetes or HIV/AIDS. Men are more likely than women to develop athlete's foot.

The fungal infection can create an environment that invites a secondary bacterial infection. By producing an antibiotic substance, the fungus can kill off vulnerable bacteria and favor the overgrowth of hardier, resistant types. In turn, the bacteria release substances that can cause tissue breakdown - soggy skin and painful eroded areas between the toes.

After an episode of athlete's foot, proteins might enter your bloodstream, leading to an allergic reaction that may cause an eruption of blisters on your fingers, toes or hands (dermatophytid reaction).

For mild conditions, your doctor may advise you to apply a prescription or over-the-counter antifungal ointment, lotion, powder or spray. Most infections respond well to these topical agents, which include:

  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)

If your fungal infection is severe or doesn't respond to topical medicine, your doctor may give you a prescription oral medication. Oral medications include:

  • Itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), oral Sporanox and oral Lamisil may be linked to rare cases of liver failure and death. Oral Sporanox may weaken the heart's contractions and shouldn't be prescribed for people with a history of heart failure.

Griseofulvin (Fulvicin, Grifulvin), an older oral medication, has been prescribed less often since the introduction of the newer medicines. It's effective, but can take months to clear up the infection.

Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have an accompanying bacterial infection. In addition, your doctor may recommend wet dressings, steroid ointments, compresses or vinegar soaks to help clear up blisters or soggy skin.


These tips can help you avoid athlete's foot or ease the symptoms if infection occurs:

  1. Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Go barefoot to let your feet air out as much as possible when you're home.
  2. Go with natural materials. Wear socks that are made of natural material, such as cotton or wool, or a synthetic fiber designed to draw moisture away from your feet.
  3. Change socks and stockings regularly. If your feet sweat a lot, change your socks twice a day.
  4. Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber.
  5. Alternate pairs of shoes. This allows time for your shoes to dry.
  6. Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shower shoes in communal showers, pools, fitness centers and other public areas.
  7. Treat your feet. Use an antifungal powder daily.
  8. Don't borrow shoes. Borrowing risks spreading a fungal infection.

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Asthma As A Killer Disease

You may not think of asthma as a killer disease. Yet each year, nearly 500,000 Americans with asthma are hospitalized, and more than 4,000 die.

Asthma is a chronic condition that occurs when the main air passages of your lungs, the bronchial tubes, become inflamed. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten and extra mucus is produced, causing your airways to narrow. This can lead to everything from minor wheezing to severe difficulty in breathing. In some cases, your breathing may be so labored that an asthma attack becomes life-threatening.

But asthma is a treatable condition, and most flare-ups and deaths can be prevented. In recent years, scientists have gained a better understanding of asthma's cause. New drugs have been developed to replace standard medications. Greater emphasis also is now put on managing your own condition, much as people manage their diabetes with insulin. Together, you and your doctor can work to gain control over your asthma, reduce the risk of severe attacks and help maintain a normal life.

You're more likely to develop asthma if you have an inherited predisposition to the condition and are sensitive to allergens or irritants in your environment. In fact, the inflammation that causes asthma makes your airways overly sensitive to a wide range of environmental triggers.

Asthma can develop at any age. If you're younger than 30, your asthma is probably triggered by allergies. Many people older than 30 with asthma are also allergic to airborne particles.
For some people with asthma, particularly older adults, respiratory allergies don't seem to play a role. Instead, exposure to any irritant — such as a virus, cigarette smoke, cold air, and even emotional stress — can trigger wheezing

In most cases though, asthma results from a combination of allergic and nonallergic responses. You may react to one or more of the following triggers:

  • Allergens, such as pollen, cockroaches and molds.
    Air pollutants and irritants.
    Smoking and secondhand smoke.
    Respiratory infections, including the common cold.
    Physical exertion, including exercise.
    Cold air.
    Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
    Sulfites — preservatives added to some perishable foods.
    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your esophagus. GERD may trigger an asthma attack or make an attack worse.


A number of individual medications exist for asthma, and many are used in combination with others. Your doctor can help you decide which option is best for you based on your age and the severity of your symptoms. In general, the four types of treatments are:

Long-term-control medications. These are used on a regular basis to control chronic symptoms and prevent attacks.
Quick-relief medications. You use these as needed for rapid, short-term relief of symptoms during an attack.
Immunotherapy or allergy desensitization shots. These decrease your body's sensitivity to a particular allergen.
Anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies. These are designed to prevent your immune system from reacting to allergens.

Click here for More articles on Asthma and Acute Bronchitis

Terrorism and Other Public Health Threats

Air Contamination

. An accident at a plant or factory might release large amounts of a hazardous chemical into the air, for instance. A terrorist attack could involve the deliberate release of a toxic chemical or gas.

In a bioterror attack, bacteria or viruses causing diseases such as anthrax, pneumonic plague, smallpox, or tularemia could be released in an aerosol form. Anyone who inhaled the substance could be affected.

While air itself does not become radioactive, release of radiation into the environment can create radioactive dust and dirt (fallout) that can make the air unsafe. A “dirty bomb” could work in this manner, causing a relatively minor explosion but doing its real damage by releasing radioactive materials into the environment.

Allergies reach epidemic levels in Europe: experts

Fri Mar 31 ~ Reuter
Allergies such as hay fever are reaching epidemic proportions in Europe and a failure to treat them properly is creating a mounting bill for society and the healthcare system, experts said on Friday.
Around one third of the European population has some kind of allergy, while one in two children in Britain will have allergies by 2015, costing millions of euros in medical bills, lost work days and even impaired concentration in school pupils.
Experts say various factors such as air pollution, animal fur and dust mites could act as triggers for allergies but that the levels of allergic reaction vary from country to country.

"There is an epidemic of allergic disease in Europe and elsewhere in the world," Peter Burney, vice president of research at the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GALEN), told reporters on Friday.
Allergies were most prevalent in Britain and Ireland, as well as other English speaking countries like Canada, Australia and the United States, Burney said, adding they were also becoming more widespread in new European Union' member states.

"It's not a problem which is going to go away soon," he added, noting that as allergy sufferers get older the complications resulting from their condition tend to get worse.
"We have data showing that up to the age of 55, people do not lose their allergies, but that the complications are greater," he said. "This is a serious problem."

Failure to treat allergies could also increase the risk of patients developing asthma later in life, GALEN's general secretary Torsten Zuberbier said, calling for early diagnosis and treatment of sufferers.
"We have valid data that one third of European Union people have allergies but only 10 percent of these millions of people are treated well," Zuberbier said, adding that around 40 percent of children with untreated hay fever will develop asthma.
"We need early treatment in children and we can avoid the large burden of social and economic costs
," he said.

The GALEN network has established standard practice across Europe in diagnosing allergies and it has now begun to draw up guidelines on how best to treat the conditions.