We all want to have nice looking toes and toenails, especially in the warm months of summer when we head to the pool, park, and beach. Many of us find ourselves wearing sandals as much as possible, and we love the feeling of going barefoot.
But the germs that cause toenail fungus are all around, and they’re easy to catch. If we’re not careful – we may find ourselves unexpectedly afflicted with a new case of toenail fungus. How do you avoid catching a fungal infection of the toenails, especially at the beach?
What is a fungus?
A fungus is an organism that has the ability grow in or on our bodies, infecting or damaging the tissues. If there are more than one, they’re referred to as “fungi”, the plural of fungus. Mushrooms, molds, and yeasts are all fungi.
In humans, dermatophyte fungi can cause different types of fungal infections of the skin, hair and nails -- such as on our toenails. If you have a toenail fungus, the medical name for it is onychomycosis.
What are the symptoms of a toenail fungus?
A toenail infected with fungus takes on a different appearance. The nail changes color from the infection, and begins to look white, yellow, or brown. The toenail also thickens and sometimes lifts away from the nail bed. Most of the time, toenail fungus is painless, but sometimes, the area around the toenail can hurt.
How do you prevent catching a toenail fungal infection at beach or anytime?
Keep your feet dry. Fungi like moisture. So, if your feet and toes are spending a lot of time in water or wet sand, you’re at risk for catching a fungal infection. It’s important to keep your feet and toes as clean and dry as possible once you’re out of the water. Also, make sure to air out your sandals and shoes. Don’t wear old, dirty, or damp shoes or socks, as these conditions contribute to the development of toenail fungus. On top of that, old shoes can harbor fungus.
Don’t go barefoot. Fungi are easy to catch if you go barefoot in public places such as the beach, a pool, public showers, and public bathrooms. It’s essential to wear either beach shoes, shower shoes, or sandals that cover your feet and toes when you’re walking in public places. This protection will help prevent the fungi that are in the environment from contaminating your skin and nails, leading to an infection.
Be careful with pedicures. Some people catch toenail fungal infections from improperly cleaned tools, infected polish bottles, unsanitary foot soak basins, or the technician’s dirty hands. If you must get a professional pedicure, make sure to either bring all your own equipment or confirm that the salon practices in a safe manner with properly sanitized tools, bottles, and basins, and that the technicians wash their hands well between customers.
Don’t share tools or clippers -- even with family. If you have one infected nail, don’t use the same trimmer from that nail on your other non-infected nails. If you do, you’ll spread the infection to your other nails. Avoid using someone else’s nail clippers, because if they have a fungus, you’ll get it.
Consider going bare-nailed and natural. Take an occasional break from wearing toenail polish to allow your nails to get air. It gives them a healthy break from being covered with chemicals, which prevents oxygen from getting through.
The unsightly appearance of toenail fungus can put a damper on your summer and any desire to wear sandals. Toenails infected with fungus can look downright gnarly -- as the surfers say.
If you’re concerned you may have a toenail fungus, call the foot experts at Central Massachusetts Podiatry for an appointment. We provide a wide variety of treatments for curing toenail fungal infections, from topicals to our cutting-edge Cutera® GenesisPlus cosmetic fungal laser. We’ll get you back into the swing of summer with great-looking feet and toes.