Dorms: Can you get athlete’s foot from the dorm shower?

Infection Connection

This case of athlete's foot has made a fissure between the toes. Exactly what you need in college.
This case of athlete's foot has made a fissure between the toes. Exactly what you need in college.
© Lester V. Bergman/CORBIS

Athlete's foot isn't a serious condition, but it is annoying. Severe cases can cause a bacterial infection that can spread throughout your leg. You'll know when you have athlete's foot. It usually shows up as a red, crusty rash. It might be on the soles of both feet or on one or two toes. It burns, itches and stings. Although contagious, it's hard to pass athlete's foot from person-to-person contact [source: Schmitt]. Moreover, the fungi that cause the problem seem to attack those who have already gone through puberty (presumably all of the collegiate community) [source: Bennett].

The mostly likely place to pick up athlete's foot in college is a shared shower, like the one in your dormitory or in the gym locker room. You can also get it from padding along barefoot near swimming pools. These hot and humid places prove irresistible for the fungi. Dorm showers are especially bad places for athlete's foot because people are rinsing off throughout the day. As a result, the shower floor never gets a chance to dry, which would slow the fungal growth [source: Brichford].

Several things can happen when an infection sets in. If you have an interdigital (between the toes) infection, the skin will become pale and moist. It will itch and burn. Your feet might also emit a most unpleasant odor. As athlete's foot spreads, it cracks and peels the skin between your toes, opening the way for a bacterial infection of the lower leg [source: WebMD].

If you see athlete's foot spreading around the sole of the foot, then you're the lucky recipient of a moccasin-type infection. This type begins slowly as your skin dries up and begins to itch. Next, the skin starts to burn, and the soles of your feet crack. If the problem isn't taken care of quickly, the fungus can spread to your toenails. If that happens, the nails can become thick and fall off. Another type of athlete's foot starts out as blisters that redden and then burst [source: WebMD].