Can your mouthwash treat athelete's foot?
This surprising ingredient in your mouthwash has another use besides just keeping your mouth fresh
When thinking of mouthwash, most associate it with good oral hygiene and the minty, refreshing feeling it provides after using it. Surprisingly, mouthwash has another use. Besides helping keep your breath fresh and bacteria at bay, it can also contribute to the treatment and cure of “Athlete’s Foot," a common fungal infection of the feet. Thymol, an active ingredient in mouthwash, has significant antifungal properties, which can help assist in combating the pesky symptoms of Athlete’s Foot. It is interesting to know that a common product in your cabinet such as mouthwash, has more than one use for better overall health maintenance.
Tinea Pedis: What Is It and How Can It Be Treated?
Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection that can make the feet itchy, red, malodorous, and flaky. It predominantly involves the soles of the feet and in between the toes. It is very uncomfortable for the person who is affected, as it often causes burning, irritation, cracking of the skin, scaling, and itchiness. Tinea pedis may be contracted from walking barefoot in public places such as gyms, locker rooms, pool areas, and other areas where there is high foot traffic. Since this fungus thrives and proliferates in areas where there is a lot of moisture and humidity, it is best to wear sandals or other footwear to protect your feet in areas such as the pool or public showers.
How can tinea pedis be treated?
Tinea pedis can be treated by various topical antifungals. There are options available over-the-counter or prescribed by a medical provider. A more affordable and easier alternative would be purchasing an over-the-counter mouthwash such as Listerine. Listerine contains the ingredient thymol, which has antifungal properties. Simply soak your feet in a Thymol-containing mouthwash daily or soak a cotton ball with it and place it on the affected areas. Continue this regimen for several weeks until the infection clears. Once it is gone, continue applying the mouthwash for maintenance for another week or two, just to ensure the infection has resolved.
Other tips for managing or preventing tinea pedis are making sure the feet are always clean and dry. Also, avoid sharing towels, linens, shoes or socks with others if you are infected with a fungus, as it can spread to others easily. Lastly, it is helpful to wear clean moisture-wicking socks and dry shoes, as fungi thrive in moist environments. It is prudent to avoid moisture for preventing an already active fungal infection from further progressing.
What Is Thymol? Is It Effective Against Athlete’s Foot?
Thymol seems to be promising against tinea pedis. It is a natural compound extracted from plants as an essential oil. Thymol is used in foods and insect repellants, among other products, since it is safe and effective. One of the unique features of thymol is its antibacterial and antifungal activity. One study concluded that thymol was just as effective in combating fungi as other leading synthetic antifungal treatments. Apart from treating tinea pedis, thymol has been studied as a treatment option for other fungal infections such as onychomycosis and Candida infections.[1,7] The attractive features of thymol are that it is inexpensive and generally safe for consumers to utilize, even if the efficacy is low.
- Be sure to purchase a mouthwash that has the active ingredient of thymol. One example of a brand to choose would be Listerine Mouthwash.
- Since fungal infections can be somewhat difficult and time-consuming to treat, consistency and persistence are key. Soak and/or apply the mouthwash often to the affected area daily.
- Be sure to keep your feet clean and dry. Properly wash feet daily with a mild cleanser and thoroughly towel dry the feet afterward.
- Do not re-use towels, socks, and other linens when you have tinea pedis, and definitely, do not share these items with others as this infection can be contagious.
- Keep your feet dry by wearing sandals or dry shoes and socks. Refrain from walking barefoot in public places, wet areas, and areas of high foot traffic.
- Marchese A, Orhan IE, Daglia M, et al. Antibacterial and antifungal activities of thymol: A brief review of the literature. Food Chem.2016;210:402-414; PMID: 27211664 Link to research.
- Link to research. American Academy of Dermatology. Athlete’s foot: How to prevent. Accessed June 8, 2018.
- Misner BD. A novel aromatic oil compound inhibits microbial overgrowth on feet: a case study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2007;4:3; PMID: 17908343 Link to research.
- Link to research. Medline Plus U.S. National Library of Medicine. Athlete’s Foot Also called: Tinea pedis. Accessed June 9, 2018.
- Link to research. Listerine. Listerine Active Ingredients. Accessed June 9, 2018.
- Abbaszadeh S, Sharifzadeh A, Shokri H, et al. Antifungal efficacy of thymol, carvacrol, eugenol and menthol as alternative agents to control the growth of food-relevant fungi. J Mycol Med.2014;24(2):e51-56; PMID: 24582134 Link to research.
- AARP. Get More Out of Mouthwash Than Just Fresh Breath. Accessed June 9, 2018. Link to research.