Minimizing the Effects of Toenail Fungus

Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?

Developing a toenail fungus is a common problem for a lot of people. It can be caused by a lot of different things so the chances of someone dealing with a fungal infection during their lifetime are rather high, especially as they get older. This is a medical issue which can be treated, but most treatment options require a long period of time before they take care of the problem completely and eradicate the infection from the body. This can lead to a few worrisome questions for people: If I have a toenail fungal infection, how likely am I to pass it on to someone else? If it is such a common medical problem, how likely am I to get it from someone else?

The truth is that this is a fungal infection and, like all fungi, it is contagious. A fungus can spread throughout a person’s body by traveling through the bloodstream and it can also jump to another person. However, Dr. Andrew Schneider of the American Podiatrist Association mentions that the chances of catching this particular fungus are very slim. In a lot of the cases when one person has contracted the infection from someone else that patient already has an additional infection such as athlete’s foot which increases the chances that the onychomycosis can spread from one human to another.

Excluding the case of an additional infection, the other way in which a person could catch a toenail infection from another person is through prolonged and/or intimate contact. Exposing the nails to areas or items which have also been in contact with an infected nail such as sharing bathrooms or public showers at the gym will increase the likelihood. Podiatrists note that sharing socks or shoes is one of the fastest ways to catch a toenail infection from someone else and it is strongly advised against. In order to prevent spreading the infection as much as possible people that have been diagnosed with this problem should seek out treatment as soon as possible.

How Do You Get a Toenail Fungus?

A toenail infection can occur in anybody, but there are some which are definitely more susceptible to this problem than others. The European Academy of Dermatology lists aging as the number one risk factor which can contribute towards getting a toenail infection[1]. This is due because the toenails will grow more slowly and will become thicker in older people and this makes it easier for the fungus to infect the area. There is also the poorer blood circulation to contend with which also helps the infection spread faster.

There can be a genetic predisposition for this infection. If a person is aware that toenail infections are in his family medical history he should be more vigilant as he is exposed to an increased risk of catching this fungus. Studies conducted by the Dermatology Academy revealed that this predisposition is found more in men than women. In the sample test conduced, men were almost twice as likely as women to show signs of the toenail infection.

A Gym Shower Is a Common Source of Fungal Infection.

The environment also factors heavily on the ability for this fungus to spread. Like any other fungus, it develops faster in a humid or moist environment. This means that people that work or are around such areas for longer periods of time have an increased likelihood of catching this infection. Additionally, being in situations where heavy perspirations occurs only creates a more suitable and inviting environment for the fungus. Things can be made even worse by wearing socks and shoes from materials and fabrics that do not allow the skin to breathe and be properly ventilated. They do not absorb the perspiration and increase the chances of getting infected.

How Can You Decrease the Chances of Catching this Toenail Infection?

People can severely decrease the chances of catching a toenail infection with a few minor adjustments to their personal habits. The biggest factor which can contribute towards this goal is an increase in hygiene. Washing the feet frequently as well as using foot powder will not allow the fungus time to infect your body.

The Mayo Clinic lists a couple of very useful tips for toenail prevention which have been reviewed and approved by the American Academy of Dermatology. First of all, people should make sure to dry their feet whenever possible. Whether it is after a shower or simply in the cases of people that perspire a lot, creating a dry environment is the best way to keep a fungus away. There are a lot of antiperspirant sprays available which can be used in order to keep a foot from sweating too much and creating a moist environment where the fungus can thrive.

Proper grooming of the toenails can also help avoid this problem in the future. By cutting them straight and often it prevents the nails from hitting against the insides of shoes. This can lead to the nail cutting the skin underneath which makes it a lot easier for a fungus to infect the foot.

People that work out a lot have a bigger likelihood of contracting this infection. That is because they perspire a lot more and some of them also have some habits which are not advised. For one, they should always make sure that their workout shoes are always dry before using them. They should be stored in a cool and dry place and not in common storage areas such as a locker or a car trunk. Ideally, people should use several different pairs of shoes for workouts and rotate between them so they have enough time to dry out.

What to do when You Are Infected?

Flip Flops Are the Best, but They Need to Be Washed Regularly.

Even with vigilance, sometimes a toenail infection still occurs. In these situations, the person infected has a responsibility to increase his awareness regarding his actions in order to minimize the chances of infecting other people. First off, they should look into treatment alternatives right away. After that they will need to take a few precautions and make some changes to their daily routine.

They need to avoid sharing any of his socks or shoes with anyone else because this will severely increase the chances of him spreading the infection around. They should also be careful to thoroughly clean the shower after they use it, especially if they share the bathroom with other people. They should avoid walking around barefoot because he can spread the fungus around. Avoiding walking barefoot is also a very good tip for people that do not want to be infected. On the other hand, it is also recommended to allow the feet as much air time as possible so not using socks or shoes works best. Usually, sandals or flip flops are the best in these situations. In the event that this is not possible, cotton socks are the best alternative since they allow the feet to breathe more than any other material. However, they should be changed frequently. Eliminating the environment in which the fungus thrives is the best way to ensure that it does not get the chance to grow and spread.


[1] Siqurqeirsson, B. Steingrimsson, O. “Risk Factors Associated with Onychomycosis”. Journal of European Academy of Dermatology. Jan. 2004

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