Pharmacy2u By Published:

Anyone can experience a fungal nail infection, or onychomycosis, as it’s also known. Though many people may feel embarrassed or unclean, it’s a very common condition. It is more common in elderly people, diabetics and those with an impaired immune system, as they are more susceptible to fungal infections as well as infections in general.

The condition occurs by the fungi infecting the keratin in the nail – the material that makes the nail hard and provides its strength. It is more commonly found in toenails, although it can affect any nail. Athlete’s foot is also caused by a fungus and it is thought that some people may develop fungal nail infections as a result of untreated athlete’s foot and the infection spreading from the skin to the nail.

As always, nail fungus prevention is better than the cure – so here are a number of foot and hand hygiene tips to help avoid infection creeping in.

1. Spot the signs early

While symptoms aren’t always obvious at first, a nail fungus infection can cause discolouration of the nail (it may look white, yellow, black or green), thickening of the nail, brittleness, pain and discomfort. Knowing the warning signs can help treat conditions that encourage nail fungus to grow, before the white, yellow or black streaks set in and even deeper nail changes begin.

2. Choose the right shoes

Shoes can be a factor in causing fungal nail infections – whether they cause your feet to get hot and sweaty or are ill-fitting, they can make you more susceptible to the condition. Instead of working out how to get rid of toenail fungus once you have it, pick a pair of well-fitting, breathable shoes made from natural materials that allow the air to circulate.

3. Clip correctly

Nail fungus can be prevented by keeping your fingernails and toenails short, clean and dry. However, avoid snipping with the same clipper. Instead, have one nail clipper for infected nail and another for uninfected nails. Be sure not to cut away at cuticles, as this is said to increase the risk of nail damage and infection.

4. Keep feet (and hands) clean and dry

Fungi thrives in warm, moist and dark environments. Since we keep our feet wrapped up in warm and often sweaty shoes for most of the year, it’s no wonder the infection is so common. Again, breathable shoes are best. As well as drying your hands and feet thoroughly after washing, treat skin that has been infected with athlete’s foot with an antifungal treatment.

5. Watch your socks

As well as shoes, socks can harbour moisture and create the ideal environment for nail fungus, so wear clean, fresh socks daily. Also remember to change them straight away after exercising and try using an antifungal spray before laundry. Women should avoid tight hosiery where possible too, which can promote the build-up of moisture.

6. Avoid being barefoot in public

Special shower shoes are your friend. When walking around public pools, communal showers or locker rooms, always wear protective footwear. Those warm, moist places can spread fungal infections more easily.

7. Boost your immune system

A healthy, happy immune system is one that is less susceptible to infections – and that includes fungal infections. Controlling your blood pressure, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting an adequate amount of sleep every night are all great healthy-living strategies to keep your body in fighting form.

8. Don’t share towels, socks, shoes, clippers or scissors

Remember, fungi can be easily spread – so avoid sharing items that could potentially be carrying the infection, such as towels and socks. Nail salon equipment can also be a hotbed for fungus. Be sure to find a trustworthy salon that sterilises equipment between uses.

How to treat nail fungus

If it’s too late for nail fungus prevention, treatments are available. If you think you have an infection, you can seek a confidential consultation from Pharmacy2U who can advise on a course of treatment where appropriate.
Terbinafine is an antifungal medicine which is commonly prescribed for the treatment of nail fungal infections . One tablet is taken orally at the same time each day before or after food. Treatment courses vary in length, on average lasting between six weeks to three months, dependent on the location of the infection .

Since treating nail fungus can be a lengthy process, following the preventative measures listed above is the best way to stop an infection gaining entry to your nails in the first place.