Most people are familiar with the unapealing look of brittle, yellowish, discolored and flaky nails that fungal infections are associated with. Nail fungus can be a source of tremendous embarrassment, forcing millions of people worldwide to avoid showing up barefooted, wearing sandals or engaging into fun activities. Furthermore, it can bring about distress and pain while the possibility of total nail loss, in more extreme cases, can not be ruled out. But how likely is it for people to contract that infection? Is nail fungus really that contagious?
Is it really that easy to contract nail fungus?
In essence, a fungal nail infection is not considered extremely contagious; however, it is still fairly likely for people to get infected if they’re being sloppy when it comes to properly following personal hygiene rules or have a weak immune system. Moreover, if the infection manages to reach the nail bed, it can become very tenacious and burdensome. All the more reason then for doing everything you can to avoid picking it up in the first place as well as spreading it!
How can someone contract it?
Obviously, the prevalent belief is that nail fungus can be picked up directly from another person’s toenail. Indeed, getting into direct contact with someone’s toenails, or even with the skin surrounding them, may prove to be enough to get infected.
However, this is not the most common way to catch nail fungus. You see, a fungal infection is more likely to develop from a dermatophyte associated with existing conditions, and especially athlete’s foot. We know that fungi thrive on moist areas, like shower rooms or swimming pools, and that these places are extremely hazardous when it comes to attracting dermatophytes. In that case, those parasitic fungi can spread from the soles to the toes and toenails, thus triggering the onset of the infection.
Another reason that can lead to fingal infection (especially a toenail one) is the presence of openings through which dermatophytes can sneak in. Knowing that nails actually serve as protectives that overlay the openings, it comes as no surprise that damaged nails (after an foot injury, for example, that has destroyed a nail) prove to be less resistant to all sort of bacteria and germs which may find their way in and set off an infection.
Furthermore, apart from suffering a nail injury, the sturdiness of your nails can be severely undermined on a slow but consistent bases, in case let’s say you have adopted harmful habits such as wearing tight or moist shoes; that can gradually cause wounds and crack to appear, thus increasing the chances of a fungal infection developing.
Finally, certain medical conditions such as diabetes or psoriasis can severely amplify the likelihood of getting nail fungus since they significantly compromise the immune system’s effectivenes, thus rendering people more vulnerable to infections.
Simple precautionary measures
Here is a short list of preventive steps which can help you limit the chances of getting an infection as well as those of passing the fungus onto others:
- Wear shoes, slippers or flip flops at all times
- Thoroughly dry your feet
- Wear clean socks and comfortable shoes
- Take good care of your nails, cutting them from one corner straight across to the other
- Don’t share clothes
- Don’t share shoes and socks and avoid using them if they’re not completely dry
- Don’t share towels as their fabric tends to retain microbes which can then be transmitted to other nails or other parts of your skin
- Avoid sharing a bed with another person, or if that’s not possible, wear clean socks to diminish the chances of an infection
- Don’t share nail clippers, or if that’s not possible, make sure you disinfect them meticulously prior to using them
- Use anti-fungal powders or sprays
Any final word of advice?
You need to remember that prevention is the safest way to avoid getting or spreading nail fungus. However, if by any chance you get infected, there is a wide range of home remedies and over-the-counter treatments that can help you control and eradicate it. But no matter what the case is, consult your podiatrist, who can help you out of any further complications. And remember: if left untreated, nail fungus can become both a strain and a health hazard to friends, relatives or companions.