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Family Foot & Ankle

How to Prevent Toenail Fungus This Summer

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No matter who you are, summer is a time where you deserve to carve out at least a bit of time to do something fun. We’ve got plenty of options around our regions, from the excitement of Kings Island and Soak City to a bit calmer excursions such as Krohn Conservatory or Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.

Whether you like to hang out around water or stroll over trails and grasses, you might like to have your feet bare or out in sandals. Unless, maybe, you have an unsightly fungal toenail infection.

Fungal toenails can be a summer showstopper when it comes to being open-toed in public. Not only are thick, discolored, crumbling toenails a sight nobody wants to see, but there is some existent risk of spreading that fungus to others.

You can still enjoy summer with fungal toenails, although most people end up hiding their feet away in shoes for the season. If you want full foot freedom during the summer, you want to reduce your risks of picking up toenail fungus. This is, fortunately, not the most difficult goal to achieve, but summer can increase potential exposure for many.

dipping feet in pool

Where Summer and Fungus Meet

What makes summer a riskier time of year for contracting a fungal toenail infection?

First, as we’ve noted, feet are out a lot more often, which can increase the chances of fungus transmitting to different surfaces.

Where those surfaces are, however, plays a big role in how long the fungus survives and how easily it can be picked up on your feet.

Fungus requires three elements to survive well: warmth, moisture, and low light.

Where do you find those areas in summer that also have a lot of bare, potentially fungus-infested feet? Three big ones are shower rooms, gyms, and around public pools (although home is always a potential hot zone as well).

To significantly reduce your risk of picking up toenail fungus during the summer, take steps to protect your feet and eliminate these factors. It’s that simple!

Tips for Fighting Fungal Risks

In many cases, reducing your risks of toenail fungus involves nothing more than a little forethought and consideration. As a bonus, one of the fungi that causes toenail infections can also cause athlete’s foot, so you’re helping to prevent that nasty condition from flaring up as well!

Keep the following tips in mind through summer, both out-and-about and even sometimes at home.

Cut Your Barefoot Time at Public Pools and Showers

Whether you’re at a public pool, a gym, the showers at a campsite, or any other wet place where a bunch of bare feet you don’t know are treading through wetness, you want to limit your exposure as much as possible.

The best way to do so is with a pair of shower shoes or aqua socks that cover the top and bottom of the foot. If you already have fungal toenails, the aqua socks are a good choice to wear in the pool as well.

If you are not a huge fan or don’t have footwear that covers top and bottom, flip-flops are better than nothing. They tend to slide off and not provide as much protection, however.

feet in public shower

Wash and Dry Your Feet Properly

Once you’re out of the water, or following a nice workout, make sure to wash and dry your feet well. You want to get any potential strange organisms off your feet before you head out for the rest of your day.

Ideally, you will want to take your shower shoes or flip-flops into the shower with you, if it’s public. Regardless, when you are done, don’t just stuff your feet into socks and shoes before they are completely dry! Remember that fungus loves warmth, dampness, and low light. Your shoes are perfect if they’ve got the moisture!

Dry your feet thoroughly, and especially between the toes. It is very easy for water to accumulate and hide there, providing good areas of attack for fungus. It’s a big target for athlete’s foot and close enough to the nails to potentially hop over and roost within them as well.

Air Out Your Shoes

Moisture in your shoes doesn’t just come from showers and locker rooms. It also comes straight from you!

Sweat from your feet can accumulate in your shoes, adding to the breeding potential for fungus (and bacteria as well, which is why shoe odor is often connected to sweat).

Summer shoes—especially sneakers—should be made of breathable materials. These types of materials tend to be more natural, but there are also synthetic materials made especially for this purpose. A looser mesh knit also helps circulate air through your shoes.

But in addition to material and design, you must give your shoes ample time to air out after you’ve spent a good amount of time in them. Shoes that you’ve spent a day in should have at least 24 hours in an open environment to dry. This doesn’t mean throwing them into a dark closet!

In some cases, you may even wish to wash your shoes or use anti-fungal powders in them to make sure they’re good to go. We can help you determine whether these measures may be necessary.

breathable sneakers for summer

Early Action Gives the Edge!

Taking pre-emptive action to lower your risks of toenail fungus is the optimal move for you and your family. But even if the fungus is already among you, quick action is still essential!

Starting treatment for toenail fungus as early as possible into an infection will provide the best and fastest results. Ideally, you want to attack it while it’s still showing up as small streaks or specks on the nail, but there’s no reason to wait at any point.

If you need help with fungus or other foot or ankle conditions, give our offices a call at (513) 728-4800. We have six offices in the region ready to serve you!

 

 

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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