The thickened, yellowish, and ugly looking nails that result from a fungal infection of the nail bed can cause a lot of frustration and embarrassment. They can also cause a bit of fear—fear that you might have to show those nails in public, yes, but also fear from your family or housemates that you might pass the condition on to them as well.
Fungal toenails are not nearly as contagious a cold or flu, but it can be transferred from person to person under certain circumstances. And the penalty for transmission is high, since the condition won’t simply go away in a few days. Indeed, fungal toenails can last indefinitely if not treated, so while they make their home in your feet, it’s best to—at the very least—keep them to yourself!
Here are some steps you can take to contain the fungus and reduce the risk of transmission:
- Don’t share clothes. Fungi can live in damp clothing, particularly shoes and socks. It’s never a good idea to share these items with others, but doubly so if one of you has a fungal infection.
- Don’t share or re-use towels. The microbes can cling to fabric and transfer to other nails, or to other parts of the skin where they can cause infections like athlete’s foot or ringworm. Use your towel once, then wash it immediately. Do, of course, make sure you dry your feet thoroughly after each time you use the shower.
- Don’t share nail or foot care tools. Ideally, each person should have their own set of nail clippers, nail file, emery board, etc. that they use themselves. If not, make sure to disinfect them between uses.
- Disinfect the shower after use. Fungi can stick on hard surfaces, too, such as shower floors. You might also consider wearing shower shoes or flip-flops in the shower to be extra safe.
- Apply antifungal powders or sprays to the inside of shoes. This can help whether you’re the one with the infection or not.
- Wear clean, breathable socks to bed. If you share a bed with another person, the fungus may transfer to them via shared linens. Wearing clean socks to bed and washing sheets regularly minimizes transmission risk.
These steps can protect your family during an ongoing infection, but the best long-term prevention strategy is treatment. If you only live with an active fungal infection for a few months, the risk of spreading it is relatively low. If you ignore your fungal nails for years (or decades), each new day is a new opportunity to infect others.
We can help with that, of course! As a matter of fact, we offer advanced laser therapy for fungal toenails, which has proven significantly more effective (and with fewer side effects) than drug-based treatments. To schedule your appointment with Dr. Sanjay Patel in either Milford or Hamden, CT, give us a call today at (203) 876-7736.