Medical research tells us that some people are at greater risk of fungal infection than others, but all of us can lower our risk with good foot care to avoid nail fungus. These infections usually start in a toenail and spread to other toes and then to the hands, so paying extra attention to the feet lowers the risk of fingernail infections too. It’s likely the feet are more often infected because they get less air circulation, are washed less often, and come in contact with contaminated surfaces more frequently.
Good nail hygiene protects nails from onychomycosis. A simple routine of foot washing and nail care can make a big difference. Wash your feet daily, making sure that you wash between the toes where dirt and dead skin cells can easily become trapped (dirt often contains fungal spores and dead skin cells are one of the things fungi use for food, so its important to clear these things away). Complete your foot care to avoid nail fungus by drying just as carefully between the toes using a clean dry area of the towel for each toe. If you put moisturizer on your feet, do not use it between your toes because this can increase the moisture there, which encourages fungi to grow.
Healthy nails are another part of foot care to avoid nail fungus. Keep your nails clean and trimmed, clearing away any material lodged under the nail, and removing jagged or chipped ends. Trim hangnails carefully, doing as little damage to the surrounding tissue as possible, and do not cut the cuticles. If you wear nail polish, clean it off frequently so that you can see the condition of the nail underneath. Remembering that good hygiene protects nails from onychomycosis, always wear shoes in public places and do not share nail care instruments with others. Buy your own tools and take them with you if you visit nail salons.
Keeping your feet comfortable not only makes sense, but it’s important foot care to avoid nail fungus. Footwear that’s tight and airless, sandals that don’t protect your toes from bumps and scratches, and synthetic socks that don’t allow air circulation or absorb moisture all contribute to the growth of fungi. Hot sweaty feet should be washed and dried, as should dirty feet or feet that have been in wet shoes or boots. Even minor injuries can be the start of a problem, so first aid is important.
Though good hygiene protects nails from onychomycosis, it sometimes isn’t enough. If you see discoloration of thickening of a nail that could signal the start of an infection, consult a medical professional promptly for a diagnosis.