Fungal toenail infections are more common in winter. Here’s how to care for your feet during cooler months, and what to do if you experience a nail fungal infection.

Winter is the time for extra cosy blankets, steaming hot soup on frosty nights, and our favourite sheepskin slippers.

It’s a time of year when everyone wraps up warm, meaning that our feet rarely see the light of day – and as comfortable as that is, it can be bad news for toenail health.

When your feet are always wrapped up in layers, the skin can’t breathe very well. This can lead to a number of common problems.

Common foot problems in winter

One of the most common foot problems in winter are fungal infections. This includes both Athlete’s foot and the growth of nail fungus.

Athlete’s foot is the common name for a fungal infection that results in symptoms such as redness and itching between the toes, burning and stinging, rashes, inflamed skin, and cracked or scaly areas on the foot.

Another problem is a fungal toenail infection, which usually results in discomfort, a thickening and change in colour of the nails, itchiness or cracking, and separation of the nail from the nail bed.

A fungal infection can be picked up by sharing items such as nail clippers or walking barefoot in infected areas (such as communal showers), but it can also spread from your own Athlete’s foot infection. To make matters worse, moisture within the nail feeds the fungus and helps it to grow.

Finally, it’s also possible for your feet to become too dry in winter. This is more common if you don’t wear slippers or socks around the house, so the cooler air dries out the skin. This can lead to cracking and infections.

How to save your feet this winter

Here are a few things you can do to ensure your feet are healthy and ready for your jandals come summer.

Wear breathable socks that wick moisture away from your feet. Merino is a great choice, but anything with cotton or wool will be a big bonus over something that’s mostly polyester.

Always wash your feet. Don’t assume water and gravity will do the trick in the shower. Use soap to get in between your toes, and thoroughly dry your feet after each wash.

Keep your toenails neatly trimmed.

Give your feet a break from footwear, whenever possible. Let them breathe freely when you sleep, and around the house if it’s not too chilly.

Ensure your shoes properly dry out between wears. You may wish to alternate between several pairs of shoes.

Keep a spare pair of socks in your bag so you can pop them on if your feet do get wet.

How to treat a fungal toenail infection

If you do encounter a fungal toenail infection this winter, remember there are treatment options available.

The first step is always to speak to your doctor to first ascertain that you do have a fungal infection, then determine the best course of action.

One option is a treatment such as RestoraNail. This daily treatment works on both the infection itself and damaged nails. It can work in as little as a month for some patients*, and has been shown to remove nail fungi for almost two-thirds of patients after six months. For more severe cases, your doctor may suggest an oral antifungal medication.

Your doctor may suggest a topical treatment, such as a cream or ointment, or even an oral medication depending on the extent of the infection. Topical treatments are often all that’s required for less severe cases, so identifying and treating the problem early is usually the easiest route.

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* Nasir, A., Swick, L., et al., “Clinical Evaluation of Safety and Efficacy of a New Topical Treatment for Onychomycosis”. J. of Drugs in Dermatology. 2011;10;10;1186–1191. Research sponsored by Chesson Laboratory Associates Inc.

Disclamer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare professional. If symptoms persist or you require specialist advice, please consult your healthcare professional.

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