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How can I prevent toenail fungus?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
They're not as bad as coffin nails, but fungus nails can be ugly. Onychomycosis is the medical term for this yellow, chipped, twisted condition that crops up more on feet than fingers. That’s because the toenail fungus thrives in warm, moist areas like your sock- and shoe-covered toes.

Toenail fungus can make you too embarrassed to go barefootin', but that's about as serious as it gets. If you want to jump feet-first into spring, keep in mind that it takes about 6 weeks for a toe fungus “cure” to show. Consider these tips to prevent toenail fungus:
  • keep nails dry with absorbent socks;
  • don’t walk barefoot unless the floor is clean enough to lick;
  • in dorms, gyms, and hotel rooms, bring along bleach or a disinfectant to clean showers and avoid being (re)infected;
  • keep your toenails short and trimmed straight across, which keeps them cleaner and helps them heal; and
  • try a topical antifungal medication (they’re about 10% effective -- not a great track record).
The most potent nail fungus treatments are potentially toxic antifungal drugs taken by mouth. About one in 10,000 people has liver complications from these.

Because nail fungi rarely cause more than a superficial problem, if your nails aren’t keeping you from the love of your life, you should weigh the benefits of taking an antifungal drug with potential side effects. Whatever you decide, when the weather’s right, put on your sandals and head outdoors to enjoy the health benefits of a good spring frolic.
To prevent fungal nail infection:
  • Keep your feet as dry as possible.
  • Change socks frequently and wear socks that are made from a breathable material that wicks moisture away from skin.
  • Use shower slippers around swimming pools and in locker rooms.
  • Thoroughly dry feet after washing.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To prevent toenail fungus, your doctor will suggest keeping your feet cool and dry. If you wear heavy work boots that make your feet warm and sweaty, a fungus is more likely to grow around your toenails. The doctor may tell you not to walk barefoot in locker rooms, as you might pick up a fungus from the warm, wet floors. Finally, he may caution you about sharing towels with family members. This can pass around the toenail fungus to others.

Ask your doctor about ways to prevent toenail fungus.
James P. Ioli, DPM
Podiatric Medicine
To prevent toenail fungal infections, avoid walking barefoot in heavily trafficked public areas, like locker rooms or swimming pool areas. (Wear sandals or "shower shoes" when you are there.) Practice good hygiene: wash your feet daily with soap and water and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Put on a pair of clean socks every day, and change them more often if you sweat a lot or get your feet wet.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.