Toenail Fungus Prevention

Since treating toenail fungus after the fact can be a long process - it can take up to months - the best method of treatment is prevention! Not only will the following practices help you avoid toenail fungus, lower your risk and prevent reoccurrences; it will also help to eliminate any existing fungus.

The fungi that causes toenail fungus grows best in warm, moist areas, so the best way to prevent onychomycosis is to keep your feet dry and aired out, and to avoid contact with surfaces that may house the fungi. There are a number of variables you need to consider in the prevention of toenail fungus:

Avoid wearing socks and shoes when you can, but obviously this is not always feasible. When you do wear closed-toe shoes, you should be wearing socks underneath. This prevents your shoes from being contaminated by the fungi. When you do wear socks, make sure they are 100% natural material such as cotton, wool, or silk. These materials allow air to circulate around your foot and they absorb moisture away from your foot. When you get your socks damp, take them off as soon as possible and dry your feet before putting on a clean dry pair of socks. Avoid socks made out of synthetic materials like acrylic, nylon, spandex, or polyester, since these materials don't allow air to circulate or moisture to pass away from your skin.

Avoid wearing shoes where you can. When you must wear closed-toe shoes, make sure you have socks on underneath. A sock can be taken off and washed easily, and this prevents the shoe from getting too moist and being contaminated by fungus. Wear breathable shoes so that air can circulate around your foot, keeping it cool and dry. Circulation is best when shoes are made with natural materials and manufactured to contain air-breather holes. Synthetic or plastic shoes do not allow air circulation and they promote moisture retention. Change your insoles on a regular basis, and make sure your shoes are dry before you use them again. If you are recovering from a fungus condition, sprinkle anti-fungal powder in the toes. Also, make sure your shoes are roomy around the toes. If there is jamming of the toes, this can lead to microtrauma of the nails, and this will increase incidence of fungal infection. Store your shoes in a cool dry place with lots of air circulation.

Wash and thoroughly dry your feet often. Use a nailbrush to scrub away dirt and dead fungus and nail tissue and pay special attention to cleaning underneath the toenails. When drying your feet, use a towel vigorously to remove dry skin and improve circulation. Wash all towels that have been in contact with the infected area before using them again. If you do not, the fungi spores picked up by the towel can spread to other areas. You may want to use paper towel to dry the affected area so that you can throw it away afterwards. File your infected nails thin so that topical treatments can penetrate properly. Cut your toenails straight across and short but not too close to the nail bed. Don't share toenail clippers. Do not wear nail polish until the fungus is gone, and even then change your polish frequently, giving you nails some time to breathe for a few days in between. If you have sweaty feet, you may want to spray them with antiperspirant before vigorous activity.

Do not share towels, washcloths, shoes, or personal items with anyone else. This is one way that fungi spores may be spread from person to person and even to other areas on your own body. All towels, washcloths, shoes, and personal items should be thoroughly cleaned after every use before you use them again. Pay special attention to toenail clippers. Not only should you avoid sharing them, but make sure they are thoroughly disinfected after every use. If you're getting a pedicure (which you should not do if you currently have an outbreak of onychomycosis), make sure all their equipment has been sterilized - the beautician should have no problem walking you through the sterilization process.  Find out about pedicure nightmares and about why you should avoid the whirlpool bath at your salon.

Public Places
The fungi that cause toenail fungus (which also cause athlete's foot) like to grow in warm, moist areas like spas, swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. It can live in warm puddles on tile floors, waiting for someone to step in and pick up the spores. That's why it's important that you wear sandals or water shoes to keep your feet from touching the floor directly. After your session at the pool or other public area, make sure to thoroughly wash and dry your feet.

Eating Habits
For some people reducing your sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption makes your body less capable of hosting fungi. If you have recurrent toenail fungus, you may also want to stay away from "mold producing" foods like mushrooms, melon, berries, tea, and dried fruits. Limit your intake of dairy products and vinegar.

Bleach out the shower on a weekly basis and wash your shower mat regularly in hot water to prevent fungi spores from collecting in your shower.