What is fungal nail infection?

Fungal Nail Infection

Fungal nail infection in children: Overview

A nail that is infected by a fungus usually turns white or yellow. As the fungus spreads, the nail turns a darker color and gets thicker. And its edges start to turn ragged and crumble. A bad infection can cause pain, and the nail may pull away from the toe or finger.

Nails that are exposed to moisture and warmth a lot are more likely to get infected by a fungus. This can happen from wearing sweaty shoes often and from walking barefoot on shower floors. Or it can happen if your child shares personal things, such as towels and nail clippers.

It is hard to treat nail fungus. And the infection can return after it has cleared up. But medicines can sometimes get rid of nail fungus for good. If the infection is very bad, or if it causes a lot of pain, your child may need to have the nail removed.

Fungal nail infections

A fungal nail infection is a fungus that gets into your fingernail, toenail, or the skin under your nail, usually through a small cut.

The infected toenail usually turns white or yellow. Sometimes it's painful.

Toenails that are exposed to moisture and warmth a lot may be more likely to get infected by a fungus. This can happen from wearing sweaty shoes often.

Toenail fungus usually doesn't need treatment unless it's causing pain. It often comes back after it has cleared up.

What are the symptoms of a fungal nail infection?

A nail with a fungal infection may turn yellow or white, get thicker, crumble, and split. The nail may separate from the skin. A fungal nail infection usually isn't painful. But over time, you may be uncomfortable or even have pain when you wear shoes, walk, or stand for a long time.

How is a fungal nail infection treated?

You can try an over-the-counter antifungal cream, lotion, or nail polish. Your doctor can also prescribe a stronger medicine. Antifungal pills give the best chance of curing a severe infection. If you have a severe nail infection or the infection keeps coming back, your doctor may remove the infected nail.

Preventing fungal nail infections

There are some things that might help prevent a nail infection or help keep it from coming back.

  • Before bed, wash and dry your feet carefully.

    Applying a topical antifungal medicine may help prevent repeat infections.

  • Keep your feet and hands dry.

    Dry skin and nails are less likely to get infected. Put powder on your dry feet or hands after you take a shower or bath.

  • Wear sandals or roomy shoes made of materials that allow moisture to escape.

    Let your shoes air out for at least 24 hours before you wear them again.

  • Wear socks.

    Change them if your feet get damp or sweaty.

  • Wear shower sandals in wet public areas, such as locker rooms or showers.

    Let them dry between uses.

  • Do not share nail files or clippers, socks, towels, or other personal items.
  • Avoid injuring your nail.

    Cutting nails too short is a common cause of nail injury.

How is a fungal nail infection diagnosed?

To diagnose a fungal nail infection, your doctor will:

  • Look at the skin and nails on your hands and feet.
  • Ask about your medical history. This includes any previous symptoms of nail damage or fungal nail infections.

The doctor may take a sample of skin and nail fragments from under the infected nail or a sample of the nail itself. Tests to examine the samples include:

  • KOH preparation, to find out if the problem is caused by a fungus.
  • Other lab tests, such as a fungal culture or a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, may be done to find which type of fungus you have.

If the tests don't show fungi but your doctor still thinks that you have a fungal infection, a nail biopsy may be needed.

How can you care for yourself when you have a fungal nail infection?

For a mild fungal nail infection, try an antifungal cream, gel, or polish that you put on your nail. To stop the infection from coming back, keep your nails clean and dry. Change socks often. Don't go barefoot in public places. And try not to share personal things like towels and nail clippers.

What causes a fungal nail infection?

Fungal nail infections can be caused by yeasts, molds, and other kinds of fungus. You can get a fungal nail infection from walking barefoot in public showers or pools or by sharing personal items, such as towels or nail clippers.

What is a fungal nail infection?

A fungal nail infection is an infection that occurs when a fungus attacks your fingernail, toenail, or nail bed. Fungi can attack your nails through small cuts in the skin around the nail or through the opening between the nail and nail bed. If you're healthy, the infection probably won't cause serious problems.

Fungal nail infection in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the site.
    • Pus draining from the site.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has new or increased toe pain.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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