Toe infection may range from mild infection such as from a toenail fungus or an ingrown toenail to serious ones such as infection of the skin (cellulitis or abscesses). Severe infection of the toe can even result in infection of bones or joints. While superficial toe infections are generally mild and usually get better by home treatment; however, a serious toe infection requires medical treatment. It is important to know how to differentiate between the two because the serious one should be checked by a doctor to prevent its deterioration and spread.

Learn to Check the Symptoms of the Infected Big Toe

Symptoms of an Infection of Big Toe

You may suffer from a big toe infection if you have the following symptoms:

  • Pain or soreness

  • Redness

  • A blister that is filled with pus or drainage of pus from the big toe

  • Thickened, yellow and cracked toenails (from infection by a fungus)

If you suffer from diabetes, you may be prevented from feeling the development of an infection; hence, check the feet for any signs of toe infection every day. Look for swelling, pus, redness and other signs that indicate an infection.

When Should You Visit Your Physician?

You should visit your primary care physician or podiatrist (a foot specialist) in case the swelling, redness and other symptoms and signs do not get better with treatment at home. Visit your physician immediately if:

  • You develop chills or fever.

  • You see red streaks on your skin running away from area that is infected.

  • You have muscle or joint pain.

Your physician will do a physical examination of your infected big toe. You may undergo tests to determine the type of fungus or bacteria that have resulted in the infection in your toe.

Get checkups of your feet regularly from the podiatrist in case you suffer from diabetes, so that infections in toes and other such problems can be detected and treated early. Also visit your physician more often in case you suffer from any foot problems such as an ingrown toenail.

What Causes the Toe Infection?

An infection of the skin surrounding the toenail is referred to as paronychia. It is usually caused by bacteria. A fungus can also infect a toenail.

The following factors increase your risk of getting a toe infection:

  • You cut your toenail very short, or you cut the cuticle surrounding the toenail.

  • You suffer from an ingrown toenail (a condition in which the side of the nail grows in the skin).

  • You have got a fungal infection by walking barefoot in public areas such as a gym locker room or shower.

  • You suffer from a callus, a condition characterized by thickening of skin caused due to rubbing (for instance, when the toe rubs against the shoe).

  • You put the feet quite often in water (for instance, if you go swimming quite often).

If you suffer from diabetes, then your risk of getting an infected toe is increased. Increased blood sugar can result in damage to the blood vessels, which make it difficult for your body’s immune system to fight infections. Moreover, nerve damage due to diabetes may numb your feet; hence, you don’t feel minor trauma to your toes and are prone to get infection of the toe.

If your immune system is weakened, then also your risk of getting toe infections is increased. People with weakened immune system include those suffering from HIV, and those with organ transplant.

How Is Infected Big Toe Treated?

If the infection is caused by bacteria, then an antibiotic pill or cream can treat it. Fungal infections can be treated by using antifungal cream or pills. These can be purchased OTC or by prescription from the physician.

For treating ingrown toenail, the physician may lift your nail and then put a piece of splint or cotton beneath it. This is done to help the toe nail grow away from skin. If it does not help, then a part or whole nail may be removed.

If a blister filled with pus is formed, then your physician may drain it.

The following remedies may be tried at home:

  • Soak your toe for around 15 minutes in a tub filled with lukewarm water and a pinch of salt. Repeat 3-4 times in a day.

  • Apply an ointment (medicated) on the big toe and wrap a clean bandage.

  • For ingrown toenail, lift corner of nail gently. Put small piece of waxed dental floss or cotton beneath it.

To protect the toe when it heals, wear comfortable, loose shoes, which don’t rub. Take care to keep the feet dry. Change the socks every day.

Home Remedies That You Can Try for Infected Big Toe

  • Try tea tree oil: Tea tree oil can be applied directly on a fungal or a bacterial infection. Tea tree has natural anti-bacterial properties and it helps to kill infections. It has been shown in clinical studies to improve athlete’s foot.

  • Soak your toe in ACV. Apple cider vinegar can be used either cold or warm. You can do this for about 15 minutes each day. ACV has antimicrobial properties, partly due to being acidic in nature. Moreover, vinegar has been utilized in general since centuries due to its antimicrobial properties.

  • Garlic paste can be applied to the infected toe. Crush 2-3 peeled garlic cloves and mix them with castor oil or olive oil or manuka honey (it is also antimicrobial in nature). Put the mixture on the infected toe and wrap a bandage. Garlic paste should be changed daily. The antibiotic properties of garlic make it helpful in fighting infections of the skin including staph infection.

  • Soak infected toe in Epsom salt bath every day. Put ½ cup Epsom salt in 3 cups of lukewarm water. Soak the toe in this water for about 15 minutes. The salt in the solution can kill fungal and bacterial infections.

  • Soak your toe in solution made with Listerine mouthwash diluted in warm water. Make the solution by mixing equal parts of mouthwash and warm water. Soak your toe every day. Listerine contains thymol, eucalyptol and menthol; all of these are derived from natural sources of antibiotics. Hence, it can help heal a simple infection of toe. In case of fungal infection of toe, soaking your toe in a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and Listerine can help in eliminating the infection.

  • In case the infection is not improved after few days of utilizing home remedies or gets worse, then visit a physician for treatment.


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