Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) affects 10% of American’s. Keen swimmers often wonder if it’s safe to go swimming with toenail fungus, or whether this will put others at risk of infection.
Can you go swimming with toenail fungus? If you swim in a modern, chlorinated pool, it’s very unlikely that others will get toenail fungus from the swimming pool water. Chlorine acts as a disinfectant. However, toenail fungus is easily transmitted at the poolside, so precautions must be taken (footwear should always be worn) to protect other swimmers.
People involved in sports tend to get fungal foot infections because fungi proliferate in warm, damp, and sweaty environments. Take steps to get rid of toenail fungus, and wear flip-flops or swim socks to minimize the risk of passing on the problem when you’re poolside.
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Chlorine Kills Toenail Fungus
If you’re intending to go swimming with a fungal nail infection, consider the type of pool you’re going to. Most public swimming pools use chlorine, and other strong chemicals, to control the spread of disease.
However, in recent years it has become more popular for health clubs and swimming pools to go ‘chlorine-free,’ so check this detail before you jump in the pool. Swimming in a chlorine-free pool with toenail fungus is not recommended.
Spreading Toenail Fungus at Poolside
Although chlorine kills fungal spores in the water, they can proliferate at poolside. Take the following precautions to prevent others from coming into contact with the fungal spores:
- Wear flip-flops or sandals around the poolside and in the shower to stop your feet having contact with the ground. Many pools offer disposable foot covers, so wear these over your flip-flops wherever possible.
- There are ‘swim socks’ which can stop the spread of fungal infections. They can be worn in the pool and at the poolside, providing a barrier between toenail fungus and the pool.
- After showering, dry your feet thoroughly. Never share your towel with anyone else.
- Don’t put your bare feet on the floor or locker room bench when putting your shoes on.
What is Toenail Fungus? (Onychomycosis)
Fungi are microbes that occur naturally in our environments. They reproduce and multiply in ‘spores.’ For example, the ‘spores’ you see on a moldy loaf of bread are just one type of fungi.
Fungi spores are present in the air and on many of the surfaces we touch. When we breathe in air or touch a surface contaminated with these spores, we come into contact with fungi.
Our bodies can deal with a certain amount of fungi. However, if the quantity becomes too much for the immune system to handle, this can result in a fungal infection.
Fungi spores multiply in warm, damp environments such as gyms and swimming pool locker rooms. They develop very slowly and can take a long time to go away.
Do I Have Toenail Fungus?
- Color Change – The toenail will start to turn yellow, brown, white or black.
- Infection Spreads Inwards – Color change on the outskirts of the nail that gradually moves inwards as the infection progresses.
- Texture Change – The nail will become thick in some areas, and thin and brittle in others.
- Breaking off – Bits of the toenail may flake off, or the whole toenail may become displaced.
- Pain – Pain is a common side effect of this condition, and it can become debilitating.
- Foul Odor –They may smell very unpleasant, particularly in hot weather. Studies show that odor is the main reason people decide to seek treatment.
How to Treat Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus can be notoriously difficult to eradicate entirely but there are steps you can take to make treatment more successful.
- Intervene early to stop the fungal infection from taking hold.
- Be consistent as most treatments take months to work.
Most people start with the least invasive treatments, such as toenail fungus cream. The main problem with this form of treatment is that it can be difficult for the formula to reach the nail bed. Carefully filing away the dead nail is highly recommended.
Nail Fungus Laser Treatment
Laser treatment for toenail fungus is pain-free and convenient. It works by using a laser to kill fungal spores under the nail and promote healthy new nail growth.
However, it can be expensive. It’s not covered by health insurance as toenail fungus is considered to be a cosmetic problem. There are at-home laser devices, such as Cure Ex, that can be used.
Their overall cost must be weighed up against the overall efficiency of the treatment. Perhaps you’ve had a stubborn toenail fungus for years that won’t go away.
Anti-Fungal Oral Treatments
The most commonly prescribed anti-fungal treatments include Terbinafine and Itraconazole.
Terbinafine is taken at a low dose for up to 6 months, whereas Itraconazole is usually taken at higher doses for multiple, short periods of time until the nail infection has improved.
Oral treatments are effective in treating fungal nail infections. However, they are not suitable for individuals with liver conditions. The liver needs to work hard to process these kinds of medications.
Surgical Toenail Fungus Treatment
Some podiatrists can offer ‘manual’ treatments for fungal nail infections. This involves scraping or cutting out infected areas of the nail. Experts will use their knowledge and expertise to decide which bits of the nail to tackle and what methods to use.
In cases where all other treatments have failed, surgery may be required to remove the nail in its entirety (avulsion). Once the nail has been removed, surgical steps can be taken to ensure that it doesn’t grow back. This may be necessary in cases where a fungal infection has persisted.
Toenail fungus can be a challenging complaint to treat. One concern is the time it takes for various treatments to work. In the meantime, most people want to remain active. This will probably include getting their feet sweaty at the gym and visiting communal swimming pools.
Having a fungal foot condition shouldn’t prevent you from going swimming at a public pool, but you need to take extra precautions to ensure you don’t pass your infection on to anyone else.