Is Toenail Fungus Contagious? Get the Facts Here!

By Kathy Brisbane

Updated On

Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common foot condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it may seem like a purely cosmetic issue, toenail fungus can cause discomfort, embarrassment, and even pain if left untreated.

One of the most frequent questions people ask about toenail fungus is whether it is contagious. In this article, we’ll explore the causes, transmission, prevention, and treatment options for toenail fungus.

Key Takeaways

  1. Toenail fungus is caused by fungal infections, yeast, or mold, and thrives in warm, moist environments.
  2. Toenail fungus can be contagious, but it is not highly contagious and requires direct contact for transmission.
  3. Proper foot hygiene, avoiding sharing personal items, and seeking professional treatment can help prevent the spread of toenail fungus.

What causes nail fungus?

Toenail fungus is primarily caused by fungal infections, particularly dermatophytes, which are fungi that thrive on keratin, a protein found in nails and skin. Other culprits include yeasts and molds, which can also invade and infect the nail bed. These fungi flourish in warm, moist environments, making nails susceptible to infection, especially if they are constantly exposed to such conditions.

Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing toenail fungus, including:

  • Advanced age
  • Weakened immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Sweaty feet
  • History of athlete’s foot
  • Frequent use of public swimming pools or locker rooms

Also Read: How To Know If Toenail Fungus Is Dying? A Complete Guide!

Is toenail fungus contagious?

Yes, toenail fungus can be contagious, but it is not highly contagious like some other fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot. The transmission of toenail fungus typically requires direct contact with an infected nail or skin, or with contaminated surfaces or objects.

Toenail fungus can spread in the following ways:

  • Sharing personal items: Using the same nail clippers, files, or towels as someone with toenail fungus can lead to transmission.
  • Walking barefoot in public areas: Locker rooms, swimming pools, and showers are common breeding grounds for fungi, and walking barefoot in these areas can increase the risk of infection.
  • Skin-to-skin contact: Direct contact with an infected person’s nails or skin can result in the spread of toenail fungus, especially if there are cuts or abrasions on the skin.

To prevent the spread of toenail fungus, it is crucial to practice good hygiene and take precautionary measures, which we will discuss in the next section.

How to prevent toenail fungus from spreading?

Preventing the spread of toenail fungus involves a combination of good hygiene practices and lifestyle changes. Here are some practical tips to help keep toenail fungus at bay:

Maintain proper foot hygiene

  • Wash your feet daily with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
  • Use antifungal foot powders or sprays to keep your feet dry and prevent fungal growth.
  • Trim your nails regularly and file down any thick or brittle areas.

Choose the right footwear

  • Wear breathable shoes made of materials like leather or canvas, which allow air to circulate.
  • Avoid tight-fitting or closed-toe shoes that trap moisture and promote fungal growth.
  • Change your socks daily, and opt for moisture-wicking materials to keep your feet dry.

Protect your feet in public areas

  • Wear flip-flops or sandals when using public showers, locker rooms, or swimming pools.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in these areas to minimize contact with contaminated surfaces.

Don’t share personal items

  • Use your own nail clippers, files, and towels, and avoid sharing them with others.
  • If you visit a nail salon, ensure that they use sterilized tools for each customer.

By following these prevention strategies, you can significantly reduce the risk of contracting or spreading toenail fungus.

Treatment options for toenail fungus

If you suspect that you have toenail fungus, it is essential to seek professional advice and treatment to prevent the infection from worsening or spreading. Several treatment options are available, depending on the severity of the infection:

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments

  • Antifungal creams, ointments, or nail polishes containing ingredients like clotrimazole or terbinafine can be effective for mild cases of toenail fungus.
  • These treatments may take several months to show results and require consistent application.

Prescription medications

  • For more severe or persistent cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe oral antifungal medications, such as terbinafine or itraconazole.
  • These medications are typically taken for several weeks or months and have a higher success rate than OTC treatments.

Laser therapy

  • Laser treatment involves using focused light to heat and destroy the fungus without damaging the surrounding nail tissue.
  • This option may be recommended for those who cannot take oral medications or have not responded to other treatments.

Surgical removal

  • In rare cases of severe or chronic toenail fungus, surgical removal of the infected nail may be necessary.
  • A new, healthy nail will typically grow in its place, but this process can take several months.

It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan, as self-diagnosis and treatment may not be effective and could potentially worsen the infection.


Toenail fungus is a common and potentially contagious foot condition that requires attention and proper management. By understanding the causes, transmission, and prevention methods, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and others from the spread of toenail fungus.

Maintaining good foot hygiene, avoiding sharing personal items, and seeking professional treatment when necessary are key to keeping toenail fungus at bay. If you suspect that you have toenail fungus, don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Remember, with proper care and attention, toenail fungus can be effectively managed and prevented from spreading, allowing you to enjoy healthy, fungus-free nails.

Read More: Hydrogen Peroxide For Toenail Fungus: Is It An Effective Solution?


Q: Can I get toenail fungus from a pedicure?

A: While it is possible to contract toenail fungus from a pedicure, the risk is relatively low if the salon follows proper sanitation practices. To minimize the risk, ensure that the salon uses sterilized tools for each customer and that the foot baths are cleaned and disinfected between uses. If you have any concerns about the salon’s hygiene practices, it is best to bring your own tools or opt for a waterless pedicure.

Q: Is it possible to treat toenail fungus with home remedies?

A: While some home remedies, such as applying tea tree oil or vinegar to the affected nail, have been touted as potential treatments for toenail fungus, there is limited scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. In most cases, home remedies may provide temporary relief or help prevent the spread of the infection, but they are not a substitute for professional medical treatment. It is always best to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Q: How long does it take to cure toenail fungus?

A: The duration of treatment for toenail fungus varies depending on the severity of the infection and the chosen treatment method. Topical OTC treatments may take several months to show results, while oral prescription medications typically require a course of 6-12 weeks. Laser therapy may show improvement within a few sessions, but complete healing may take several months. In general, it is essential to be patient and consistent with the treatment plan, as toenail fungus can be stubborn and may require long-term management.

Q: Can I wear nail polish if I have toenail fungus?

A: It is generally recommended to avoid wearing nail polish if you have toenail fungus, as it can trap moisture and create a favorable environment for the fungus to thrive. Additionally, nail polish can make it more difficult to apply topical antifungal treatments and monitor the progress of the infection. If you wish to wear nail polish, it is best to wait until the fungus has been effectively treated and the nail has grown out completely. If you must wear nail polish, consider using an antifungal nail polish specifically designed for treating toenail fungus.

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