Many of us will get athlete’s foot at some point in our lives and many of us will try to treat it by letting loose in the shower. It may save you a trip to the drug store, but does giving the fungus a golden shower really make it go away?
The Straight Talk
Athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a skin infection caused by a fungus. The fungus thrives in warm, moist areas, which is why it loves to dwell in between our toes. It is readily picked up from locker room floors and gyms, and although it is associated with athletes, anyone can get it. Usually the symptoms are mild and can be treated by proper foot care or with an over-the-counter cream containing an antifungal mixed with urea. This is probably the basis behind the theory that urine, which also contains urea, is a good way to treat athlete’s foot.
Although there have been no studies looking at whether or not urine can treat or prevent athlete’s foot (I imagine funding would be hard to come by), common sense says no. Though our pee is sterile, it won’t kill everything it comes into contact with. It does have the antimicrobial ingredient urea, but the amount of urea in our pee isn’t high enough to have a therapeutic effect on our feet, especially when mixed with shower water. Most over the counter treatments contain around 40 percent urea, but this compound is mainly used as an emollient to help the antifungal medicines do their work; urea isn’t the compound that kills the fungus. Furthermore, the amount of time our feet are in contact with our urine while in the shower is minimal.
Peeing in the shower won’t do any harm, and it even helps save water since you won’t need to flush. Unfortunately, it won’t save your feet from athlete’s foot. Drying them off completely and wearing flip-flops to the public showers just might.
Say What? is a series created to support or debunk common health myths. If you have a question for Brie, please send it to her in care of the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org .