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How Do I Choose the Best Antifungal for Toenails?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the best antifungal for toenails may require a trip to see a doctor. This is because many health experts assert that over-the-counter remedies for this type of fungus are unlikely to work. While you might decide to try one in the hopes that it will work for you, proven treatments like oral antifungal medications and research-tested antifungal nail lacquer usually require a doctor’s prescription. If you do want to try home remedies, you can usually find anecdotal reports about their effectiveness online, and Vicks® VapoRub, vinegar, and tea tree oil are among the most common choices.

The antifungal treatments used most often in the medical community include a drug called terbinafine. This medication is usually taken by mouth and requires several weeks of use. Though it is considered effective as an antifungal for toenails within the medical community, the results can take a long time to show. In most cases, it takes about a year for a new nail that is free of the fungus to grow in, and the effectiveness of the treatment can vary from person to person. Some doctors also prescribe oral medications like itraconazole and fluconazole for toenail fungus.

While taking a prescription antifungal for toenails is often considered the best option for treating toenail fungus, these medications are not without problems. They do not prevent the fungus from recurring, so you might enjoy relief for a while only to spot fungal growth once more. You may also risk side effects when you take one of these medications. These symptoms usually aren't very serious, and can include nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and abdominal pain. They can sometimes cause serious side effects as well, including liver damage, changes to your heart rhythm, depression, and blood vessel inflammation.

You might also request an antifungal nail polish from your doctor. The use of prescription-strength nail polish requires painting the polish on the affected nail each day. In order to give the medication the best chance at getting rid of the fungus, you typically have to continue polishing the nail for an entire year. Even with this long course of treatment, however, the chances that this method will work are relatively low. In fact, it is usually only effective if the fungus has not penetrated the nail bed.

As far as home remedies are concerned, it can be difficult to figure out which one is the best antifungal for toenails. If you want to choose a home remedy, you may find many online reports that report the possibility of a cure from products like Vicks® VapoRub or herbal remedies like tea tree oil. Some people also assert positive results from soaking their feet in vinegar. Since these treatments are not proven to work, you might decide to use them on a trial-and-error basis.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By turquoise — On Nov 02, 2013

My mom used an anti-fungal medication called ciclopirax to treat her fungal infection. It's in the form of nail polish and comes with special nail files. This worked for her but she used it for a long time.

By stoneMason — On Nov 01, 2013

@ddljohn-- I'm using mouthwash right now to treat my toenail fungus. It's only been a week but I think it's working. There was some pus under the big toenail and that's gone now. The color of my toenails is also slowly changing. I know that I need to keep doing this remedy for best results. It's probably going to take a few months for the infection to be cured entirely. I'm willing to wait though.

I haven't tried any other remedies but I do recommend the mouthwash remedy. Give it a try, there is nothing to lose.

By ddljohn — On Oct 31, 2013

Has anyone tried natural remedies like tea tree oil or chest rub for toenail fungus? Which would you recommend?

I have been dealing with toenail fungus for several years now. The infection keeps returning. In the beginning, anti-fungal medications worked but I've used them so much that I think the fungi have become resistant. Plus, anti-fungal medications are so bad for the liver. I think I need to try some natural remedies, but which remedy is the best?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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