Toenail fungus remedies abound in letters from readers


Hello again, dear readers, and welcome back to our monthly letters column. Once again, a column about the challenges of dealing with toenail fungus has brought a bumper crop of mail, with many of you sharing home remedies. Although the evidence for these types of natural agents remains limited, some people do find them helpful, and the approaches readers have shared here are not harmful.

-- A reader from Napa, California, had success with a friend’s approach. “I was plagued with this on both large toes, and several remedies, including Vicks VapoRub, didn’t help,” she wrote. “A friend recommended powdered Ajax cleanser, and that did the trick. A small amount on a nail brush used to scrub the affected nail every day was effective.”

-- A reader from Newport News, Virginia, also followed a friend’s advice. “I did everything I could to rid myself of the dreaded toenail fungus, and nothing helped. Then a friend suggested rubbing a capsule of vitamin E oil on my affected nails daily, and it worked!” she wrote. “Of course, it has taken awhile for the nails to grow out, but soon they looked normal again.”

-- Several readers shared that, although various home remedies for toenail fungus yielded temporary improvement, it was only when they used a systemic antifungal medication prescribed by their doctors that they saw long-lasting results.

Elizabeth Ko, MD and Eve Glazier, MD

-- In a column about gut health, we mentioned the benefits of fermented foods, including sauerkraut. We heard from a sauerkraut fan, who asked us to make clear the difference between the canned or bottled kind, which is pasteurized, and the fresh variety, which is not. “For years, I ate pasteurized sauerkraut, not realizing that all of the probiotics had been killed off through heating,” he wrote. That’s correct, and we thank him for the clarification. If you’re eating sauerkraut for the probiotics, be sure to shop the refrigerator case rather than the canned-goods shelf. If the label states the product has been pasteurized, it means the good bacteria have been killed during processing.

-- Regarding a column about motion sickness, we heard from several of you that, when you’re unable to be the one behind the wheel, keeping one eye closed can help keep nausea and dizziness at bay. We also heard positive feedback for the elastic wristbands we mentioned in the column, which keep a small plastic knob pressed into an acupressure point inside the wrist. “I use them in the car on windy roads, on ships and airplanes,” a reader wrote. “They are amazing, inexpensive and available at most pharmacies.”

-- Quite a few of you have asked us to clarify that both the mouth and the nose must be covered when wearing a face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is important, because the newest research shows that the virus can spread not only through sneezing and coughing, but also through speaking and even breathing.

Finally, we’d like to close with a thank you to Mr. Carter. Your kind letter about these columns really made our day.

(Send your questions to [email protected]. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)