skinFungus infections are common on the toenails. If you have thick, discolored, or flaky nails you may have a nail fungus infection that lives under your nail. This infection is caused by an active, live fungus, or dermatophytes (der-mah-to-fites). The infection actually eats your skin and nail, so it can continue growing and may spread to other nails.

Your nails may look “different,” be so thick they’re hard to trim, and cause you discomfort or pain that disrupts daily activities.

The infection may have taken hold because:

  • You stubbed your toe and damaged the nail.
  • You may have cracked a nail or trimmed it too close.
  • Your bare feet may have come into contact with a place where someone with an infection recently stood, such as a locker room, shower, or pool area.
  • If you shared a nail file, emery board, or nail clippers with someone who has an infection, it may have gotten under your nail.

Most people turn to their doctor for medicine to treat a toenail fungus. There are two common approaches; oral tablets and drops, and sometimes both. The prescription treatments are expensive and you have to take the medicine and/or apply the drops as directed for many months.

There are ways to clear up a toenail fungus that don’t require a trip to the doctor or hundreds of dollars for prescription medicines. That’s the good news. Toenail fungus is difficult to cure because it hides so well, so if you decide to try a home remedy approach be prepared to follow through until the fungus is all gone.

Just like the prescription approach it can take many months to fully clear it. Stopping too soon allows the infection to develop again.

Here are a few non-prescription ways to approach a fungus home nail remedy.

  • Apply drops of vinegar two to three times daily, on the top and under the nail. This is a mild acid and it is known to kill fungus. It is particularly helpful after bathing, when the skin is softened.
  • You can apply Vicks Vaporub to the infected area, again two to three times daily. I’ve heard reports that Vicks can darken the infected part of the nail. As it grows out clip it away. This is a good way to gauge your progress.
  • Oil of Oregano or Tea Tree Oil are a couple of oils that have been very successful in treating and controlling fungal infections. Like above, apply it two or three times daily after bathing and drying the area. These oils are sometime irritating. If you feel stinging or burning consider cutting the oil with another, bland oil. Jojoba oil or olive oils are good diluents. Mix one part of the irritating oil with two parts of the jojoba or olive oil. You can cut it further if needed by adding a little more jojoba or olive oil. If the oils get cloudy discard them and use fresh ones.
  • Here’s a treatment that now requires a prescription. However, it is extremely cost effective, particularly as compared to some of the more common prescriptions like Lamisil. Ask your doctor for a prescription for SSKI (a saturated solution of potassium iodide). It is an excellent antifungal and will probably cost less than a tenth as much as the other prescription drugs. Apply it a couple of times each day after bathing and drying the affected area.

There’s another piece to this puzzle. Any of the drops I’ve mentioned can be mixed with DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). This has been used for years as a liniment, especially for veterinary use. It has the ability to increase the permeability of the skin. It helps increase the amount of anti-fungal that gets through the skin and nail to the site of infection. Add 3 parts of antifungal to 1 part of DMSO. Keep the mixture in a glass bottle and shake it before using.

Using drops or creams is effective and can clear a toenail infection in about 6 months – the time it takes for the nail to grow out.

While treating with a prescription or home nail fungus remedy do the following too;

  • Wash the area at least once daily and pat it dry (rubbing can spread the infection)
  • Wear cotton socks – any other types trap moisture and help the fungus multiply
  • Wear leather or cloth shoes that are not too tight
  • Leave your feet open to the air as often as possible
  • Wear clogs when using a public shower
  • Keep your nails trimmed