Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Athlete's Foot


  • Fungus infection of the feet
  • Causes itchy rash between the toes


  • Red, scaly, cracked rash between the toes
  • The rash itches and burns
  • With itching, the rash becomes raw and weepy
  • Often involves the insteps of the feet
  • Unpleasant foot odor
  • Mainly in adolescents. Prior to age 10, it's usually something else.


  • A fungus infection that grows best on warm, damp skin

When to Call Your Doctor for Athlete's Foot

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Looks infected and fever is present

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • Looks infected and no fever
  • Pus is draining from the rash
  • Foot is very painful

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Rash has spread beyond the instep and toes
  • Age under 10 years
  • Rash continues to spread after 1 week on treatment
  • Rash not gone by 2 weeks on treatment
  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Mild athlete's foot and you don't think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Athlete's Foot

  1. Antifungal Cream: Apply an antifungal cream 2 times per day.
    • Examples are Lamisil, Micatin or Lotrimin cream (no prescription needed)
    • Apply it to the rash and 1 inch beyond its borders
    • Continue the cream for at least 7 days after the rash is cleared
  2. Keep the Feet Dry:
    • Rinse the feet 2 times per day before applying the cream.
    • Go barefoot or wear sandals as much as possible.
    • Wear socks made of synthetic fibers. They will keep the feet drier and cooler than cotton. Change them twice daily.
  3. Avoid Scratching: Scratching infected feet will delay a cure. Rinse the itchy feet in cool water for relief.
  4. Contagiousness:
    • The condition is not very contagious. The fungus can't grow on dry, normal skin.
    • Children with athlete's foot do not need to miss any school or sports. Your child may take gym and continue with sports.
    • The socks can be washed with the regular laundry. They don't need to be boiled.
  5. Jock Itch Prevention: The athlete's foot fungus can be transmitted to your groin and cause Jock Itch (e.g., via towel or washcloth). Therefore, after bathing, dry the groin area before the feet or use a separate towel for your feet until the athlete's foot is cured.
  6. Expected Course: With proper treatment, athlete's foot disappears by 2 weeks.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • It looks infected
    • Rash continues to spread after 1 week on treatment
    • Rash is not gone by 2 weeks on treatment
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics: Committee on Infectious Diseases. Athlete's Foot. In Pickering L, ed. 2009 Red Book. 28th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: 2009.
  2. Goldgeier MH. Fungal infections: Tips from a dermatologist. Contemp Pediatr. 1996;13 (9):21-50.
  3. Sweeney SM, Wiss K, Mallory SB. Inflammatory tinea pedis manuum masquerading as bacterial cellulitis. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156:1149-1152.
  4. Theos A. Diagnosis and management of superficial cutaneous fungal infections in children. Pediatr Ann. 2007;36 (1):47-54.


This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.