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Twelve ways to prevent another nail infection

How to prevent and treat nail fungus

Although fungal nail infections are usually painless, the condition can be unsightly. To help prevent nail fungus, board-certified dermatologists offer these tips.

Fungal infections are contagious, so you can get another one. Taking the following precautions can reduce your risk.

  1. Wear flip flops or shower sandals when walking in warm, moist areas like gyms, locker rooms, spas, public showers, and pools. This can prevent you from catching nail fungus and athlete’s foot.

    Wear flip flops or shower sandals

    Keep flip flops near the pool. That way, you can slip into them when you get out of the water.

    Brightly colored flip flops on edge of pool

  2. If you just finished treating nail fungus, throw away shoes, boots, skates, and other footwear that you wore before you started treatment. Fungus can live in footwear, giving you another infection.

    If your footwear is expensive or new, you can disinfect them using an ultraviolet (UV) shoe sanitizer or ozone cabinet. You can buy these online.

  3. Put on a clean pair of socks every day and whenever your socks get sweaty. This helps prevent fungi from growing. Wearing moisture-wicking socks can also reduce the need to change your socks.

  4. Wear shoes that:

    • Fit well (not tight)
    • Are made of leather, canvas, or mesh
    • Keep your feet dry and prevent overheating
    This helps prevent fungi from growing in your shoes.

  5. Alternate shoes. Fungi thrive in moist places like damp shoes. You can reduce this growth by giving shoes 24 hours to dry out before wearing them again.

  6. Sprinkle antifungal powder in your shoes. These products cannot treat a fungal nail infection, but they can help prevent fungus from growing in your shoes.

  7. Keep your nails short. When trimming your toenails, you want to cut them straight across and keep your toenails shorter than the end of your toes. Fingernails should also be kept short. This helps prevent fungi and other germs from getting under your nails.

  8. Sanitize your nail clipper before using it. To sanitize your nail clipper, wash it with soap and water and then wipe it with rubbing alcohol.

    If you go to a salon for nail care, ask how often they disinfect nail clippers, emery boards, and other equipment. They should sanitize these after every client. If not, the equipment can spread a fungal infection from one client to another.

  9. Never share nail clippers, shoes, skates, towels, and other personal items. You can easily pick up a fungal infection by sharing a personal item. People also get athlete’s foot and ringworm (a fungal infection on the skin) by sharing personal items.

  10. Keep your feet clean and dry. Carefully wash your feet with soap and water every day, taking care to wash between your toes. Dry your feet well after washing them.

    You also want to avoid having damp or sweaty feet for too long. A damp, warm area provides the perfect area for fungi to thrive.

  11. Moisturize dry skin. Fungi can get in through small cracks in your skin. To ease dry skin, moisturize within 5 minutes of bathing and after washing your hands.

  12. If you get athlete’s foot, treat it right away. Fungi also cause athlete’s foot. This fungal infection can spread to your nails.

Check your nails to find early signs of infection

Following these precautions will reduce your risk of getting another infection. Fungal infection, however, are very common. You can get another one. Early treatment delivers the best outcome.

You can find signs of an early fungal infection by checking your nails and the skin around them at least once a month. You want to look for:

  • Changes in nail color, such as a white spot or brown or yellow streak

  • Changes to the texture of your nails

  • Soreness or swelling around a nail

  • Dry, itchy skin

If you notice any signs of infection, make an appointment to see your dermatologist.

Getty Images

Gold LFS and Rosen T. “Onychomycosis: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies.” Dermatology News (A CME/CE certified supplement). March 2016:2-15.