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February 21, 2008
Nail and Fungus Hygiene and Infections
Nail Fungus Hygiene
Why do nail fungus infections (onychomycosis) strike some people for no apparent reason? The answer's not entirely clear, but you can lessen your chances of getting onychomycosis (toenail fungus)with some common sense nail fungus hygiene. Good daily habits that support the health of skin and nails can go a long way towards keeping the fungi away - and if you do get an infection, there are things you can do to prevent it from spreading and to treat it before it becomes too severe.
Most cases of onychomycosis begin on the feet, so hygiene to avoid nail fungus begins with good foot care. Keep your feet clean and dry as much as possible. When you shower or bathe, wash between all your toes and then dry these areas carefully - be sure to use a different part of the towel to dry between each toe, as fungi and other pathogens can be spread from one area to another with a towel or cloth. If you tend to have sweaty feet, it's good nail fungus hygiene to buy socks that will absorb rather than trap the moisture, and change them daily, or even more often if necessary. Wear shoes with as much ventilation as possible.
Hygiene to avoid nail fungus includes keeping your nails trimmed and clean. Dirt and organisms can get trapped under the nails, where it is warm and moist, and begin to grow - fungi that are able to live on keratin, the protein in nails and hair, can invade the nail and initiate an infection that is hard to get rid of. Nail fungus hygiene also means watching out for cuts and scratches: breaks in the skin can allow organisms to get past your immune defenses, so take care of even minor injuries near the nails, keeping them clean and covered if appropriate until they heal.
Footwear is an important part of nail fungus hygiene, but you need to strike a balance between protecting your feet from exposure to fungi, and trapping moisture and fungi inside shoes that don't have much ventilation. In a warm climate, it's easy to wear airy footwear, but this is also the type of climate where you are most likely to need good hygiene to avoid nail fungus - fungi thrive in warm damp environments. It's a good idea to wear shoes all the time while outside: even a pair of light sandals will minimize exposure to soil and contaminated surfaces. Be especially careful to wear shoes in moist public places such as swimming pool decks, locker rooms, saunas and showers.
If you do see the beginnings of what looks like nail fungus in spite of good nail fungus hygiene, you may be able to vanquish it quickly with one of the home or alternative remedies. The quicker you act the better, since advanced onychomycosis is particularly difficult to get rid of. Trim and file the affected nail as much as possible, continue to use hygiene to avoid nail fungus to lessen the chance that it will spread to other digits, and diligently apply the remedy that you have chosen. If the nail does not show signs of improvement within a couple of weeks, see your doctor to have the condition properly diagnosed toenail fungus.
Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. She is a contributing editor to Nail Fungus Hygiene, a blog dedicated to the treatment of fingernail and toenail fungus.