Prevention of Toenail Fungus

The fungus that infects toe nails is found everywhere in the environment. Skin and nail fungus can be present for months before they find opportunity to infect our nails or skin.

The following precautions will help to reduce the possibility of a fungal nail infection

  1. Clean, dry feet resist fungal disease.

    • Wash your feet with soap and water and dry completely

  2.  Shower shoes should be worn in public areas

  3.  Shoes, socks or hosiery must be changed daily

    • Rotate your shoes and wear breathable and proper fitting shoes

    •  Unless your shoes are made of all plastic, they will, undoubtedly, absorb a lot of the moisture that your feet produce each day. Unless you use the sterilizing shoe tree discussed below it will take about two full days for your shoes to completely dry out and be ready to absorb moisture again. If you wear your shoes in the rain, or get them wet some other way, it made take a full three or four days for them to fully dry out.

    • Shoes should be placed in a well-ventilated area so that air circulation can get to them.

  4.  Moisture wicking and moisture repelling socks

    • The sweat from your feet can create a wonderfully hospitable environment for athletes’ foot fungus. Traditional cotton socks will absorb moisture until they are saturated and then maintain themselves as a wet layer of cotton against your skin for the rest of the day.

    • There are two better alternatives for you then cotton socks.

    • The first is exemplified by Thor-lo ™ (www.thorlo.com) which readily transfers the sweat from your skin to the stock and allows for more rapid evaporation than cotton.

    • Another alternative is Drymax™ sports socks (www.drymaxsocks.com ) which is composed of two layers of material the inner layer of which quickly transfers moisture to the absorb an outer layer much like a disposable diaper. In both cases the skin, and in the Drymax case, the nails, stay extremely dry.

  5.  If you have excessively sweaty feet an antiperspirant may be required

    • Onox™

    • Black tea soaks

    • Drysol™

  6. Biotin

    • Biotin is a vitamin pill that may help treat or prevent split and cracking nails. Biotin stimulates epidermal cells and affects the protein structure called keratin found in skin, nails and hair. Biotin is directly involved in the production of keratin cells and is believed to increase the quantity of keratin-matrix proteins in the nails.

    • Thus, this B vitamin is likely to improve nails strength, and possibly resistance to fungus, by influencing keratin structure.

    • One clinical trial of Biotin use in nails used a high tech scanning electron microscope to carefully measure fingernail thickness and splitting. The study used a daily dose of 2.5 mg of Biotin and found that fingernail thickness increased by 25% and splitting decreased after biotin supplementation.  This study appeared in the respected dermatology journal, Cutis. (Hochman et al. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis. 1993;51:303) Appearex™ is a commercial product recommended and sold by many dermatologists and contains 2.5 mg of Biotin per capsule.

  7. Gelatin

    • Gelatin capsules are available at your drugstore or health food store, Knox or other gelatin powder that you can mix in your fruit juice or even eating Jell-O can improve the thickness and strength of your nails and make them more resistant to attack by fungus.

  8. Bring your own sterilized instruments for pedicures

    • If you get pedicures we advise that you take the proper precautions. Make sure that the pan in which you soak your feet has a disposable liner so that you don't soak your feet in the same water used by other clients.

    • Make sure that the facility sterilizes any instruments used on your feet such as clippers, files, probes and scissors. Autoclaving (sterilizing under high pressure using hot steam) is the only sure way to sterilize instruments. Typically these instruments are placed in an autoclave bag that has a colored marker that changes color when the autoclaving is successful.

    • Our autoclave bags have a pink square that turns brown with successful autoclaving.

    • In both of our offices, the autoclaves are maintained on a monthly basis.

    • We routinely check to see if the autoclave will kill bacteria by running a small sealed test tube that contains bacteria. After this test tube has run through the autoclave we will put it in an incubator for 24 hours to see if it will grow bacteria. If the test tube grows bacteria it will change colour.

      Soaking instruments in a disinfectant is not a guaranteed way to kill nail fungus.

    • You will notice that our office opens a sterile bag of instruments for every patient every time right in front of you, the patient. Your nail salon should do the same thing if they are interested in your foot health. Unfortunately, very few nail salons take this level of precaution.

    • For this reason you should purchase your own reusable metal instruments and cleaned them yourself between visits. You can purchase these instruments from a beauty supply house.

    • Once you have your own metal stainless steel instruments, you can run them through your dishwasher as a reasonably effective way to keep them clean.

    • If you are real serious about your foot health, we will offer to place your instruments in one of our autoclave bags and sterilize them for you.

    • Ask about this service

  9. Beware of nail polish

Moisture collecting underneath the surface of the toenail would ordinarily evaporate, passing through the porous structure of the nail. The presence of a polish impedes that, and the water trapped below can become stagnant and unhealthy, ideal for fungi and similar organisms to thrive.