Even though it’s not sandal season here in New York City, you probably still want to have nice-looking nails. Whether you’re showing off your new pedicure at one of the many recreational pools in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, or you’re going barefoot in a martial arts class, no one wants to have crumbly yellow nails from toenail fungus.
And unfortunately, toenail fungus is contagious and can spread all too easily in these settings. The good news is that with some preventive steps 一 such as wearing shower shoes in public locker rooms 一 you can reduce your risk of contracting a fungal infection.
Because fungal infections can be hard to treat on your own, our team of specialists recommends that you visit Manhattan Podiatry Associates, PC, if you spot the signs of toenail fungus.
Below, we discuss why toenail fungus is contagious and what you can do to control the spread if there’s an active infection in your home.
What causes toenail infections?
Nail fungus – also called onychomycosis – are caused by fungi, a type of living organism that enters into your nail bed through cracks. Your toenails may crack if they’re dry or brittle, and it’s through those cracks that fungus, dirt, and debris can enter.
This same type of fungus also causes athlete’s foot and ringworm. The name, however, changes depending on what body part is affected. A fungal infection on your foot is called tinea pedis, an infection on your head is called tinea capitis, and an infection on your nail is called tinea unguium.
How toenail fungus spreads
All of these fungal infections 一 including those on your toenails 一 are highly contagious. Fungal spores are passed between people through direct skin contact and by sharing objects or coming into contact with shared surfaces, such as bath mats and showers.
To reduce your risk of contracting a fungal infection, only use your own shoes, socks, towels, etc. Sharing items can increase your risk of developing an infection. Infections spread easily between members of the same house, but you can help tame the spread by:
- Washing all laundry, including socks, towels, and washcloths, in hot water
- Using fresh linens for each shower, including bath mat
- Not sharing any linens, including sheets
- Refraining from walking barefoot
- Disinfecting gym bags and shoes to prevent re-infection
Although toenail fungus is contagious, there are many over-the-counter treatment options. Not all cases of fungal infections respond well to over-the-counter options, and if that’s true for you, you may require podiatric care.
Treating toenail fungus
Fungal infections spread easily from one nail to another, and they can also spread from your nails to the rest of your foot. One of the best ways to reduce the spread of toenail fungus (both to your other nails and to other people in your home), is to swiftly address the problem.
Here at Manhattan Podiatry Associates, we offer laser toenail treatment to eradicate infections without harming your tissue. Laser treatments have proven to be more effective than topical medications because the heat energy from the laser can penetrate your nail and target the fungus. The heat inhibits further fungal growth.
Laser treatments are also more effective than oral medications. In one study, 91% of those with nail infections demonstrated clinical improvement even 180 days after the procedure.
You can continue to avoid reinfection by practicing good hygiene and wearing shower shoes in shared locker rooms.
Don’t get caught in a cycle of trying to treat stubborn infections at home. To learn more about laser treatment, call one of our two convenient New York City locations or book an appointment online and say goodbye to toenail fungal infections.