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Many things can trigger an itch between your toes. Perhaps you’ve had the misfortune of encountering a fungus or an insect with an affinity for your skin. Or perhaps you’ve developed a chronic condition like eczema.
Don’t let the itch between your toes annoy you. Find out what may be causing it, and what you can do to treat it, as we explore some of the possibilities below.
If the itch between your toes is severe enough, you may be more intent on trying to soothe it than on finding out what’s causing it. But it’s important to consider the most likely cause of the itch between your toes so you can manage it effectively.
Tinea pedis is the scientific name for the condition most people know as athlete’s foot. It’s a contagious fungal infection that can cause red, cracked skin between your toes and on the soles of your feet.
It can also cause some pretty intense itching and burning between your toes. If the fungal infection spreads, the itching and burning can spread, too.
Athlete’s foot is typically treated with:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications. There are several OTC antifungal treatments you can apply to the affected areas between your toes. These are available as powders, creams, and sprays.
- Prescription medications. If OTC treatments don’t work, your doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength topical antifungal or an oral antifungal medication.
While you’re treating the infection, work hard to keep your feet clean and dry, especially in between your toes. Be sure to take a few extra minutes to dry between your toes after you’ve taken a shower or bath.
During the day, use an antifungal powder to soak up perspiration in your socks and shoes.
To prevent future infections:
- Wear flip-flops or other shoes to avoid walking around barefoot in public places.
- Avoid sharing socks, shoes, or towels with other people.
- Change your socks regularly if your feet get sweaty.
- Let your feet breathe when you’re at home by wearing flip-flops or going barefoot.
Dyshidrotic eczema, or dyshidrosis, is a type of eczema that’s most common in adults ages 20 to 40.
The hallmark of dyshidrotic eczema is a series of itchy, fluid-filled blisters that appear on your toes and the soles of your feet. You might also experience redness and flaking or cracked skin. You can also develop these blisters on your hands.
While experts haven’t yet determined the exact cause of dyshidrotic eczema, they point to a possible link with seasonal allergies. Stress, allergies, and moist feet can all be triggers.
Eczema is considered a chronic condition — one that can be managed, not cured. So, you may need to learn how to cope with these blisters, which can last a couple of weeks before they begin to dry up.
You might try applying a cold compress to your feet or soaking them in cool water a couple of times every day. A heavy moisturizer, like petroleum jelly, may also help ease the itching if you apply it after using a cold compress.
Could Botox help? A small 2002 study found that botulinum toxin helped reduce itching and sweating with a related condition, dyshidrotic hand eczema. For now, the research on the potential itch-reducing benefits of botulinum toxin may hold promise but is still limited.
What if it’s your shoes that are making your toes itch? It’s entirely possible, as many people experience contact dermatitis when their skin is exposed to certain materials and chemicals.
Contact dermatitis is a skin rash that develops when your skin is irritated by something you touch. You could actually be allergic to the material of a particular pair of shoes, or it could be the result of exposure to a mild irritant over time.
Certain types of shoes might be more problematic than others.
A 2007 study analyzed allergens in more than 10,000 people and found that a type of resin used as an adhesive in certain shoes was the most common culprit of shoe contact dermatitis. But rubber was also a problem for lots of people.
If your itchy problem lies within your sneakers or pumps, it may be time to ditch those shoes and invest in some new ones.
Almost any kind of biting or stinging insect can target your feet or toes. Mites, fleas, chiggers, and mosquitoes can also drive you to distraction with the itchy welts they leave behind.
You can sometimes figure out the most likely culprit by the size of the welt.
For example, you might notice groups of three small red bites clustered together on your feet. The most likely culprit: flea bites. You might have gotten them from a walk through tall grass or by spending time outdoors.
By comparison, a mosquito bite will be just as itchy, but the bump will be larger.
You can usually treat insect bites at home with an anti-itch cream, like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. An oral antihistamine can reduce the itch factor, too. Sometimes, a cold compress can also bring some temporary relief.
However, if the bites are very painful, or they become infected, check in with your doctor. If you develop a fever or hives, don’t wait to seek medical care.
Hookworm isn’t the most likely cause of the itch between your toes or on your foot.
Hookworm isn’t very common in the United States. But if you’ve traveled to a tropical or semitropical area with a warm, moist climate and poor sanitation, you might not want to rule out hookworm as the cause of an itchy rash on your feet.
Hookworm is an intestinal parasite that can penetrate your skin through your feet, if you happen to be walking on ground contaminated by hookworm larvae.
Symptoms typically start with itchiness and a rash where the hookworm larvae entered your skin. This is most often followed by diarrhea and other symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain or cramps, and a fever.
Hookworms can cause an infection called creeping eruption, or cutaneous larva migrans. The infection looks like an itchy rash with blisters.
If your doctor decides that the problem is hookworm, you’ll likely need to take an antiparasitic medication to knock it out.
Sometimes you can treat itchy toes at home with no problems. Other times, however, you might need your doctor’s opinion. That’s because the best treatment will depend on the actual cause of the itch. You may need a prescription medication to treat certain infections.
You might not always be sure of the cause of your itch, though. Occasionally, some conditions will mimic each other.
For example, a case of eczema that affects your foot may appear to be athlete’s foot, but you wouldn’t want to treat both conditions the same way. Eczema won’t respond to an antifungal cream, and an eczema treatment might not be able to knock out athlete’s foot.
However, if you know what’s causing your itch, you may be able to treat it at home.
Athlete’s foot responds well to antifungal medications, but you could try other home remedies, such as:
- Tea tree oil. It may be an effective remedy for some people, according to a
- Neem oil. According to a 2015 study, it has antifungal qualities.
You may get some relief from the itching caused by contact dermatitis or eczema with:
- A cold compress applied to your skin.
- Heavy moisturizers. Shop for products like Vaseline, Lubriderm, or Eucerin online or at your local drug store.
- Anti-itch creams. Buy calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream online or at your local drug store.
- An antihistamine medication. Buy products like Benadryl or Claritin online or at your local drug store.
If you’re not sure what’s causing the itch between your toes and it’s not going away or it’s getting worse, follow up with your doctor. They can help pinpoint the underlying cause and help you choose the best treatment.
Another good rule of thumb: If your skin has been torn from scratching, it can raise the risk of an infection. If the scratched area looks swollen or has started to leak fluid, it could be infected. Be sure to get medical attention if you think you may have an infection.
Itchiness between your toes can be triggered by many things. Athlete’s foot is one of the most common causes. But dyshidrotic eczema, contact dermatitis, and insect bites can often cause itchy flare-ups, too.
No matter what, try to resist the urge to scratch any itchy spots between your toes. Scratching could tear your skin and leave you vulnerable to infection, which could add pain to the itch.
If home treatments like anti-itch lotions, cold compresses, and moisturizers don’t help relieve the itchiness, or if the itching gets worse or spreads, be sure to follow up with your healthcare provider to get the right treatment.