We so love to flaunt our manicured nails and the last thing anyone wants is a nail infection. Nail infection is a fungal infection on one or more nails which usually starts off as a yellow or a white spot under the tip of the nails. As the fungus spreads deeper into the nails, it might cause discolouration of the nails. A fungal infection can turn out to be a potentially painful and an unsightly problem. So it’s always better to prevent fungal infections of the nails, than taking measures after the infection. Many of these can be avoided if proper precautions are taken.
The most common nail infection is onychomycosis, which occurs when the fungi invade a finger nail or a toe nail or the skin underneath the nails. Onychomysosis can be passed from person to person, either through direct contact or through contact with commonly used shoes, floors or other personal items like files, cutters. Athlete’s foot can also lead to fungal toenail infection. Shoes that are tight or moist and do let the air out can lead to fungal infection. Nail infection present themselves in different ways:
- Discolouration of the nails.
- Thickening and scaling.
- Pain when applying pressure to the nails.
- In severe cases, the nail lifts away from the bed and will detach itself completely
Few ways in which infection can be contracted:
- A blow in the nail causing it to lift away from the nail bed, which in turn permits moisture to enter and allows bacteria to breed.
- A poorly applied artificial nail tip encourages germs to breed.
- Salons that have sub-standard products.
- Athlete’s foot that if not treated effectively can also spread to the toe nails.
- Using a gymnasium or public swimming pool without any foot protection.
- Nail biting that result in rips and tears and bleeding of the skin allowing the germs to enter that can cause nail bed infection.
Having a low immune system may also enhance the occurrence of fungal infection.
Tips to avoid nail infection
There are a lot of things you can do to reduce your chances of getting fungal infection in nails.
1. You can reduce the chances of developing a nail infection by maintaining hygiene and keeping your nails short, clean and trimmed. If your nails are particularly thick around the corners, use a nail file to smooth down the edges.
2. Dry your nails after getting out of the shower; do make sure you keep your hands and feet dry. Dry skin and nails are less likely to become affected. Apply powder on the hands and feet after every shower.
3. Use an anti fungal ointment for your hands and feet after washing them thoroughly before going to bed. The best defence against nail infection is to keep your hands clean all the time. You can use anti-fungal sprays, foot powder and topical lotion apart from the normal hand wash. Thorough hand washing is a must. Make sure you lather till 30 seconds, scrub under your nails and use warm water to clean your nails.
4. Wear the right socks and shoes:
- Nail fungus grows in darkness and moisture, so the more you trap moisture inside the socks, the greater the chances of developing nail infection. Wear cotton or woollen socks and avoid wearing synthetic fibres socks.
- Don’t walk barefoot in public places and be careful of any cuts or abrasion as it can collect dirt and debris while you walk on roads. This will lead to infection. Wear dry socks and change them two times a day.
- Take off your shoes whenever possible and your feet breathe easily. If your shoes get wet, or sweaty, let them dry before wearing it. Wear sandals or shoes made of a material that allows moisture to escape and avoid wearing plastic shoes.
- Don’t spend more time in sports shoes. Injury to the tips of toe nails may be one of the biggest factors leading to nail infection.
- Choose your shoes carefully. Choose low heels. High heels causes pressure on the front of your foot and can lead to infection.
- Try to find shoes that don’t have seam inside the shoes so that they don’t damage the toe nails. Make sure that the shoes are of your size. If the shoes are smaller than your size, they can damage your nails because the foot moves too much inside the shoe.
- Wear shower shoes when using a pool and let them dry between uses. Don’t share shoes, socks, nail clippers or nail files with anyone.
5. Keep your fingers covered:
- Wear water resistant rubber gloves if you are going to expose your hands to excessive moisture.
- Gardening also promotes nail infection as bacteria present in the plants can invade tiny cuts and scratches. Make sure to cover your hands to keep the dirt and bacteria away.
6. Nail Salon:
- If you want to get a manicure or pedicure, go to a salon that uses sterile instruments.
- Nail manicure and certain nail products can damage the nail or cuticle, making the nail more susceptible to infection. It’s preferable to get your own nail tools for the manicure session, since this will ensure that you won’t be contaminated with other people’s germs.
- If you already have fungal infection in one or more nails, do not use nail polish or any other artificial nails to hide nail infection as it can trap unwanted moisture and worsen the situation. As the nail fungus can spread from person to person, wash your hands thoroughly after touching infected nails.
And last but not the least eat a well-balanced diet, rich in Minerals and Vitamins particularly Vitamin A.
If you notice any unpleasant odour or see anything unusual in the appearance of hands or feet, consult a specialist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the condition from becoming worse.