Jar of Vicks VapoRub

The winter was brutal for much of the country, but spring is finally here. That means we will emerge from our cocoons and swap our parkas and boots for T-shirts and sandals.

Of course once toes are exposed, everyone will see the nail fungus that has been lurking under cover all winter. Dermatologists are still puzzled why some people are susceptible to this infection while others are resistant.

Once it gets a “foothold,” nail fungus can be tenacious. One reader admitted,

“I have had fungus on one of my toes for a long time. I have been to the dermatologist and podiatrist repeatedly and even had the nail removed. I was given strong pills, but they didn’t work. The podiatrist does not understand why the infection persists.”

Nail removal is an extreme measure for fighting fungus. Besides discomfort and the risk of infection, it doesn’t always produce a lasting cure.

Prescription medications may help but they are not infallible. They also have potential side effects. Drugs like itraconazole (Sporanox) and terbinafine (Lamisil) must be taken for 12 weeks. They both carry a warning about serious liver toxicity. Other side effects include headache, digestive distress (diarrhea, nausea, gas and stomach ache), dizziness, rash and itching.

It’s hardly any wonder that people are willing to try home remedies before taking medications for months or having their nails removed. Many doctors find folk treatments incomprehensible, since they are not FDA approved and have not been subjected to clinical trials.

Vicks VapoRub was effective in a small pilot study (Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan-Feb, 2011). A review of treatment for nail fungus (ISRN Dermatology, online, Jan. 26, 2012) concluded that Vicks VapoRub “is effective against onychomycosis [nail fungus] and is a reasonable option in patients who choose to forgo conventional treatments.” One reader shared his success with this treatment:

“I am a police officer who in 2008 bought a pair of watertight boots for duty, as some areas I patrol are marshy wetlands. On a cold wintery day I spent the entire day in my cruiser; unbeknownst to me, my feet were cooking.

“After about three weeks I noticed that my toenails had curled and changed color. I was in a lot of pain. Ashamed, I never sought treatment. I tried over-the-counter creams to no avail. This continued for five years, until December of 2013.

“That’s when I read about Vicks VapoRub on your website. I tried the Vicks (I hated it as a kid growing up in the early 70s) and WOW! I got great results. I’d had handsome feet before the fungus and now I can wear sandals in the summer again.

“So, I arrested the fungus with a warrant from your website and the court sentenced the fungus to life, away from my handsome feet. Who would have ever thought that Vicks would do the job?”

We have written about Vicks VapoRub and many other inexpensive remedies for toenail fungus in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. You may also be interested in our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks.

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  1. Bonnie

    I have been using Jublia as prescribed by my Podiatrist for about 2 months. I bought it directly from Philidor Rx Services. However, when I tried to renew the prescription I was told that if I had no prescription insurance and was on Medicare they could no longer provide me. They offered that I could get my prescription through my local pharmacy. I found that indeed I could. However, the cost went from $70 to $1,000! I was supposed to continue this treatment for a year. This is no longer possible as I can’t afford the prohibitive cost increase. What can I do now?

    • Terry Graedon

      You might look for a Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) provider that has Jublia on the formulary. We don’t know if most do.

  2. Blue

    I tried the Vicks cure for about 3 months on a fungal infection in my big toe, and it made no difference at all. What did work for me was applying neat hydrogen peroxide with a q-tip all over the affected nail morning and night for approx. 12 months. I had the podiatrist trim my nail for me twice in that period. I also made sure I kept my feet dry and I wore bare feet as much as possible at home.

  3. L. B.

    At age 53, crunchy toe fungus came to stay. I experimented w vinegar, hydrogen peroxide. No results. Then success, started w rubbing tea tree oil on my toenails right after a shower. After 30-45 days my toenails look clear and healthy.

  4. MJA

    I had 3 experimental laser treatment at a podiatrist’s office on both big toes. It made no difference.

  5. Bess M.

    I also used vicks. It works but would keep coming back. My husband also had fungus. He had it before I did. When he died I never got it again. I would not getting rid of your husband but I think I got it from him. Vicks works.

  6. P

    Anyone try the recommendation of Laser treatment on the toenails which was advertised as a cure several years ago? Wondering if it actually works for really bad toe nail fungus?

  7. Kahleen

    Good old Vicks – who knew?

    • K
      United States

      I had multiple laser treatments and the fungus spread like crazy from it! Seriously! So frustrating.

  8. Dixidude39

    I tried Vicks for about a month, then switched to Australian Tea Tree Oil for two months. It may just require more patience on my part. A friend is paying $800 for laser treatments with a 70% chance of success. My podiatrist doesn’t push any treatment, but says neither Vicks or the Tea Tree Oil works because the fungus is in the nail bed itself.

  9. Bill

    My experience ( two years, maybe more) has been that Vaporub helps somewhat to hide the problem ( big toe) but hasn’t helped get rid of it.
    I’ve tried listerine, vinegar, tea tree oil simultaneously with the same failure to cure. Woe is me.

  10. PV

    I tried Vicks Vapor Rub for months for mild toenail fungus. It turned my nails yellow. Once I stopped, the nails returned to their normal color. I did get rid of the fungus with a ringworm salve I purchased from my acupuncturist.

  11. Vich

    I’ve had good results in removing nail fungus using white vinegar.
    It takes weeks, but has worked even better for me than Vicks.

  12. Al

    I’ve found relief from apple cider vinegar.

  13. kaf

    When I tried this, my toenail fungus got worse. What works for some people might not work for all. I think that there may be different fungi infecting toenails.

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