Do we care if a fungus comes among us?
Most of us would care about toenail fungus for appearance’s sake, especially during sandal season or yoga class. But are there health reasons to want to prevent fungal infections and discoloration of our nails?
Yes, there are!
Some of us have diabetes or compromised immune systems and already pay exquisite attention to foot care to prevent complications. This is because such conditions pose risk of infection and can make it hard to get rid of infections once they take hold.
But even if we’re generally healthy, circulation starts slowing down as we age, which can make infections of any sort (fungal, bacterial, yeast) more likely, more complicated and sometimes even more painful.
Here are some other risk factors for infection by fungus:
- History of athlete’s foot.
- Injury to skin or nail.
- Excessive perspiration.
- Spending time around indoor pools and other humid areas.
The Mayo Clinic website describes the risk factors in even greater detail.
While we wouldn’t want anyone to stop swimming or taking showers, be aware that fungi are as opportunistic as they come. Warm, damp feet act as welcome mats. Microscopic beasts will hang out there to wait for a doorway to open to the inside.
Build Three Lines of Defense
Keeping nice, clear nails is a matter of keeping the whole foot dry, in good condition and out of risky situations.
Your first line of defense is to maintain strength. Here’s how to achieve it:
- Wear the proper footwear for each activity to help avoid injury
- Trim straight across the tops of toenails to prevent accidental cuts and ingrown toenails.
What about how we sometimes drop things on our feet or stub our toes? That’s why a second defense is needed, to pull that welcome mat away so fungi are less likely to hang around to take advantage of cracks in our armor. Eliminate the tropical blend of heat and moisture with these steps:
- Wear moisture-wicking socks.
- Change socks after workouts or whenever you notice they’re damp.
- Alternate the shoes you wear each day so they can dry out.
- Dry feet thoroughly after bathing.
We have an entire section devoted to fighting foot wetness.
Also, you can create even more of a hostile environment for fungus with antimicrobial socks or by using a foot sanitizer in foot baths or as a spray for feet or shoes – see the Foot Health Store for ideas.
The third type of defense against fungus is to avoid germs generally. Do it in these ways:
- Wear something between your feet and the floor in shared spaces such as gym shower rooms.
- Sanitize footwear before borrowing or sharing it.
- Bring your own equipment to pedicure appointments.
Ask anyone who has battled foot fungus and discolored toenails: It’s much easier to prevent than to treat! Take steps to avoid “fungus among us” today.
FootSmart® Blog: Effectively treating toenail fungus requires treatment of shoes.