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Epsom Salts & Toenail Fungus

By Siobhan Shier ; Updated July 27, 2017

Toenail fungus only gets worse with time and inattention. If the toenail areas become painful, drain pus, and turn red it is important to go see a doctor rather than try to address the problem yourself. For less severe cases, there's a grocery store remedy: Magnesium sulfate, otherwise known as Epsom salts, is a method of dealing with minor onychomycosis without spending the money on prescriptions or doctors visits.

Symptoms

Symptoms of toenail fungus are the same, even for some different types of fungus. The infected areas show distinct changes in the nail, including crumbling, becoming brittle, having a yellow discoloration and dull tone, becoming loose or detaching, or thickening. The surrounding toe can also become inflamed and swollen.

Prevention

The easiest way to prevent foot fungus is to keep feet dry and clean. The fungus that infects feet and toenails lives in moist, warm areas such as public shower rooms, gyms, or swimming pools. Walking around in that environment barefoot with a cut on the toe or foot is a fast way to get a fungal infection. Flip-flops help keep feet dry and protected from bacteria in those environments, and are especially advisable when there are any skin or nail injuries on the foot. Even with flip-flops, however, remember to wash the feet thoroughly after leaving a moist or public environment.

People who sweat excessively, especially from their feet, are more prone to fungal infections in general. Wear open-toed shoes, or change socks frequently to keep the feet dry and clean. Whenever feet get wet, dry them thoroughly.

Preparation

Before applying the Epsom salt solution, trim and file the infected toenails as far as you can without causing discomfort. This allows the solution to work more effectively and reduces the chances of the infected nail spreading to the growing healthy nail.

Remove any nail polish and do not reapply until after the fungus is completely gone. Nail polish can trap the fungus instead of allowing the toes to air out.

Find a shallow container that can hold hot water. Fill it with water that is as hot as possible without burning skin. Hot water is more effective than warm or lukewarm water.

Mix in a palmful or up to 3/4 cup of Epsom salts into the water.

Use

Put the toes into the prepared solution for 10 to 20 minutes. If the water is too hot, dip the toes in it briefly, then rub the Epsom salt into them and wait until the water is comfortable enough to soak.

For best results, repeat the entire procedure, including trimming and filing the nails, every time the Epsom solution is used. Do this at least twice a day. It will take several weeks until the healthy nail has completely replaced the infected toenail, maybe longer if the infection is severe.

Alternatives

A doctor can prescribe an oral antifungal medication. There are also prescription topical creams that can help kill the fungus off, but all of these prescription options have a risk of side effects. Over-the-counter topical creams are also available to buy in a grocery store, but cost more than Epsom salts. In the absolute worse case scenarios the solution is to surgically remove the nail from the foot to prevent further damage, but that should only be done on the advice of a trained medical professional.

Warning

There is more than one type of fungal infection. A doctor can identify the exact strain and prescribe medication to take of the more severe or reoccurring ones. If an infection becomes too severe it can cause complications, such as fungus on other parts of the body, such as fingernails, permanent damage to the toenails or skin infections such as paronychia.

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