A foot rash can occur as a result of an allergic reaction or infection. Most types of foot rashes, such as athlete’s foot and contact dermatitis, are treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
However, other types of foot rashes, such as cellulitis may require medical intervention.
In this article, we list a few common causes of foot rashes along with their symptoms and treatment options.
Tinea pedis, more commonly known as athlete’s foot, is a highly contagious fungal infection that develops on the feet.
A fungus called Trichophyton causes athlete’s foot. This fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, such as shower floors and the inside of shoes.
Athlete’s foot often leads to itchy, burning skin between the toes. Other symptoms of the condition include:
- dry, scaly, or cracked skin
- flushed or raw skin
- weak, discolored toenails
- cracked or oozing blisters on the feet
Most people can treat athlete’s foot with an OTC antifungal treatment, usually in the form of an oral tablet or a liquid or cream. More severe infections may require prescription-strength medication.
Topical steroids, such as hydrocortisone, can help reduce inflammation and relieve itching and soreness.
Contact dermatitis is a rash that occurs when a substance irritates the skin or produces an allergic reaction.
Substances that may cause contact dermatitis can include:
- metals, such as nickel
- frequent washing or contact with water
People can avoid the substance that they think is causing contact dermatitis to see whether their rash clears within 1–3 weeks. Antihistamines and topical corticosteroids may help relieve symptoms.
Urushiol can trigger an allergic skin reaction called contact dermatitis. About 50–75% of adults in the United States are allergic to urushiol.
Symptoms of a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash include:
- flushed, itchy skin
- bumps or blisters on the skin
- swollen, tender skin
- difficulty breathing
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes usually clear up by themselves within a few weeks.
If someone believes that they have had exposure to urushiol, they can remove the oils immediately by washing themselves and their clothes with soap and water.
OTC topical treatments, such as calamine lotion and hydrocortisone, can help relieve itching and swelling. A doctor may prescribe an oral antihistamine to lessen the allergic reaction.
Dyshidrotic eczema, or dyshidrosis, is a common form of eczema that causes itchy blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
According to the National Eczema Association, dyshidrotic eczema is twice as common in females as males.
Symptoms can include:
- deep blisters on the toes, palms, edges of the fingers, and soles of the feet
- flushed, itchy skin
- scaly, cracked, or flaking skin
- swollen, tender skin
There is currently no cure for dyshidrotic eczema. Treatments for this skin condition involve reducing symptoms and preventing secondary infections and other complications.
A doctor may prescribe a topical steroid to reduce swelling and itching. Botox injections can lessen sweating and excess moisture in the hands and feet, which can prevent infections.
At-home treatments for dyshidrotic eczema include:
- soaking the hands and feet in cool water
- applying a cold compress to the affected skin
- using moisturizer or cream that repairs the skin barrier
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a skin condition that occurs due to coxsackievirus and enterovirus infections. HFMD is highly contagious, and people can contract it by:
- touching a person with the infection
- touching objects or surfaces that carry the virus
- breathing air that contains the virus particles
Although HFMD is most common among young children under the age of 5, anyone can develop the infection.
HFMD usually leads to small spots appearing on the hands and feet, as well as mouth sores. Other symptoms include:
- painful blisters
- sore throat
- loss of appetite
- pain when eating or swallowing
There are no specific treatments for HFMD. People may be able to manage symptoms with OTC medication that reduces fever and pain.
Drinking cold liquids can help keep people hydrated while soothing a sore throat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people with HFMD get better within 7–10 days.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that develops in the deep layers of the skin and on the lower legs and feet. Symptoms include:
- skin that appears swollen
- skin that feels warm, tender, or painful to the touch
- skin dimpling
- fever or chills
- cold sweats
- nausea or vomiting
- swollen, tender lymph nodes
People with light skin tones may also notice reddened skin in the affected area.
Cellulitis can develop suddenly and can be life threatening without treatment.
Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection responsible for cellulitis. Other beneficial at-home treatment options include:
- keeping the affected leg or foot raised to reduce swelling
- taking OTC pain medications to relieve pain and reduce fever
- avoiding scratching or itching the affected skin
- keeping the area clean and dry
Scabies is a skin condition that occurs when microscopic scabies mites burrow into the upper layer of the skin. These mites then feed on skin cells and lay eggs. Symptoms of scabies usually develop within 4–8 weeks.
A scabies infestation can lead to a skin rash and intense itching. The affected area of skin may develop pimple-like blisters or thick, crusty scales.
People cannot treat scabies with at-home remedies. A doctor must prescribe topical medications that kill scabies mites.
After starting treatment, people will need to disinfect their bedding, clothing, and any other fabrics that they regularly use. Doing this will help prevent recurring infestations.
People should contact their healthcare provider if their foot rash is painful or significantly interferes with their daily activities.
Parents and caregivers should see a healthcare provider if a child or infant develops a skin rash or blisters.
It is important for a person to seek medical attention straight away if their rash does not improve with treatment or they develop a fever.
There are numerous possible causes of foot rashes, ranging from allergic reactions to infections. Most cases clear up on their own, but OTC medications can help relieve swelling, itching, and pain during recovery.
A person should speak with a doctor if they have a foot rash that does not respond to treatment or they develop signs of an infection.