You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot, a skin problem caused by a fungus that usually shows up between the toes. The early signs are dry skin and itching. The skin may scale off. The area may look red and hot. Sometimes blisters form and then break.

The fungus is a parasite (an organism that lives off other creatures) that thrives in dark, damp places. You can’t see the fungus, but it hides in swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. That’s where the notion of “athlete’s” foot comes in.

You can’t do much to prevent the itch. A locker room’s cleanliness is usually out of your control. But you can practice good foot hygiene. Wash your feet daily with soap and water. Change your shoes and socks often so moisture can’t build up. Try a foot powder. And you can wear shower shoes to keep your feet away from infected surfaces.

If you get athlete’s foot, treat it, and if it’s still with you after two weeks, see a doctor. Sometimes medication can help.

Athlete’s foot can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams and sprays. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe a stronger cream, or pills to be taken orally. Athlete’s foot is contagious and spreads easily in damp areas such as locker room showers. It’s a good idea to wear flip-flops or waterproof shoes in such areas, and be sure to dry your feet completely (especially between your toes) before putting on socks and shoes.