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No evidence apple cider vinegar cures toenail fungus

Can soaking your feet in apple cider vinegar help “get rid of toenail fungus”? That’s one of the claims made in a graphic posted on Facebook

It features a photo of someone pouring yellow liquid over their feet in a tub of water and a list of ailments a mix of apple cider vinegar and water will supposedly cure. 

Apple cider vinegar is made by mixing apple juice with yeast. This leads to fermentation, turning the sugar in the juice into alcohol. Bacteria then turns the alcohol into acetic acid, which gives the vinegar its distinctive taste and smell.  

The Facebook post says to mix one part vinegar with four parts water and soak your feet for 30 minutes. But is this good advice for a person with foot fungus? We spoke to a medical expert to find out. 


Nail fungus a common condition

“Nail fungus is a common condition that begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail,” says the Mayo Clinic, a US non-profit medical centre. “As the fungal infection goes deeper, nail fungus may cause your nail to discolour, thicken and crumble at the edge.”

The fungus can affect several nails. There are a number of risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing a foot fungus. These include diabetes, a history of athlete's foot, or walking barefoot in damp areas.

Mild infections may not need treatment but you should see a doctor if a rash doesn’t improve within two weeks. 

No evidence supports claim        

Africa Check spoke to the Podiatry Association of South Africa (PADA) about the Facebook post. A podiatrist is a healthcare professional who treats foot diseases, including toenail fungus. 

The association said it was not aware of any evidence that supported the claim. 

Lucas Breedt, podiatrist and the national executive secretary of PADA, said apple cider vinegar was known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

One should, however, be cautious in how you decide to make use of the product as it may cause adverse reactions,” he said. 

Breedt advised taking preventative measures to prevent an infection. These included washing your feet with soap and clean water daily and drying them well, avoiding having wet feet for long and wearing clean, dry socks. 

“Avoid extended periods of wearing nail polish or gel on nails. Protect your feet from trauma by wearing shoes that fit your feet well,” he said. 

Fungus difficult to treat

Recommended treatments for toenail fungus include oral antifungal drugs, medicated nail polish and nail cream. However, it can take months to see results and the infection can also reappear. 

Breedt advised consulting a doctor for advice.

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