*Urgent* Keep dressing dry and clean after big toenail surgery?
July 23, 2021 5:49 AM   Subscribe

How do I shower, walk around and keep the dressing dry and clean?

I have to go back to have my dressing changed every 3 days for two weeks after partial big toenail removal. How do I keep my foot/dressing dry and clean in the meantime?

I just showered with a plastic bag taped around my foot. I propped it up on a plastic shower stool but it was the most awkward shower of my life.

I am going to order some kind of shower protector.

Due to the bulk of the dressing, I have trouble wearing my usual indoor house shoes. Do you have any suggestion on what I can slip over the now bulky foot (especially the big toe area is huge now) so I can walk around? Bonus if I can wear it to bed. I currently have a loose sock on.

Help, I've never had surgery before, this was a sudden surgery and I was totally unprepared beforehand emotionally and supplies-wise. I am single, have no one to look after me and don't know how I am going to survive the next two weeks.

I've dosed myself with all the painkillers and can just hobble around. I've never had to deal with a limb that I can't wash for two weeks and I don't know how to deal with the ickiness. Any mental tips?

Of course, this had to happen just when my city is suffering from a wave of Covid-19 Delta variant cases and I am not fully vaccinated yet (had my second shot last week), adding greatly to my stress. In addition, I have work (WFH). I had to take a cab home because I have trouble walking now.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Your doctor/podiatrist should have explained all this. I am not him or her, so I am going by "The Toe Bro"'s advice (Real name: Jonathan Tomines, a chiropodist in Ontario, Canada with his own YT channel, and he does at least one big toenail surgery per day)

Generally speaking, big toenail surgery just needs protecting if it bleeds. If it does, change the dressing. You can easily change the dressing yourself. Apply antibiotic cream to the wound, then a thin layer of gauze, then wrap around the big toe (not too tight). You can shower, but remove the dressing after, dry the toe and between toes thoroughly, then apply a new set of dressing. Do this for about one week, and you can use regular Bandaid (tm) and antibiotic cream until the wound heals. Your nail should grow back in a few months depending on your age and growth factor unless you opted for permanent removal.

Feel free to look up his channel and the advice he gives at the end of similar procedures.
posted by kschang at 6:00 AM on July 23

For your house shoe question- something like these adidas slides might work as they won’t restrict the toe space. Additionally they Velcro closed so you don’t need to worry about being able to slip your foot in.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:11 AM on July 23

Please call your surgeon’s office and ask to speak to their nurse for instructions. You need to follow your specific post surgical instructions re: activity, dressing changes and showering/getting wet. These instructions will be unique to you to a certain extent-based on the extent of your surgery and your past medical history. It’s nearly impossible to crowdsource discharge instructions for something like this, and failure to adhere to activity restrictions will increase your risk of infection. Source: RN, Certified Case Manager, transition care advisor for hospitalized patients.
posted by little mouth at 6:23 AM on July 23 [23 favorites]

Little mouth's answer is spot on. Also, if you need any special things they might be covered by insurance and can be ordered by the team, so asking them might save money if in US.

It's not uncommon to have questions once you get home, and no one will blink twice at you calling and asking directly.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:30 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

They make disposable shoe covers that you should be able to get online or at a big box store, and they fit over work boots.
posted by sepviva at 6:49 AM on July 23

I don't have any advice for you but I wish you a speedy recovery. My co-worker had foot surgery; she said it was the most awkward, painful, and distressing procedure she ever had done.
posted by olopua at 9:04 AM on July 23

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi, unfortunately, I am not in the US but in a non-Western country and the public GP health system is not that great here. It's impossible to call and reach an actual nurse or doctor. They are also not open on weekends (I was told to go to the ER or a private GP if I started bleeding through). I'm on my own here.

It was an outpatient procedure so I couldn't claim any insurance at all. I would have better, more personalized care if I went private but it would cost me hundreds of dollars out of pocket which I cannot afford.

Anyway, they would prefer I have my dressing changed by a nurse every 3 days rather than doing it myself. I have a doctor's appointment in one week.

I did ask about showering and was just told to use a plastic bag but I found it troublesome and it didn't work that well.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:19 AM on July 23

I ripped my big toenail off once when I was trying to yank my motorbike out from a row of densely parked motorbikes. Standing behind it, I leaned over and jerked it back and the kickstand caught the edge of the nail and flipped it up so it was hanging on by the cuticle. It happened so fast, it didn’t even hurt…then. When I got home, I pressed it back down and wrapped it in gauze. I couldn’t wear closed shoes but flip flops were fine. It was about a week later that it was able to get to a big city doctor. He had to remove the old nail that I’d crookedly pressed into place (long needle involved) and basically I just had to wait for the new nail to grow. So it was antiseptic cream, layers of gauze, flip flops and taping a plastic bag around my ankle when I showered. And limping because it hurt to flex that foot but otherwise it wasn’t bad. This was in Bangkok.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:30 PM on July 23

If they are going to change the dressing every 3 days, then that should be enough to keep the foot clean. Do you have room to sit on the shower seat? That might be easier than trying to balance more on one leg. I've also just sat on the shower floor before when that felt like an easier solution to a slightly different lower limb problem. For shoes, you might be stuck with slides or flipflops. If you're having trouble getting slides on, you should be able to find some with buckles that you can undo to get them on your foot (something that looks like Birkenstocks).

In terms of supplies, can you get deliveries to your house? Or phone a friend (or frankly anyone nice you know) to pick up some things for you? I would be ordering easy takeout if I had no food in. The other thing, is to try and stay ahead with the painkillers.
posted by plonkee at 4:45 PM on July 24

Personal experience from having toenail procedures needing toe dressings: I wore sandals all the time, and used an extra dressing on top of the "proper" ones (ie the ones that nurses changed) that I could swap out myself when it looked grubby - I used something like these finger dressings, but a bit bigger, but can't remember what they were called. And even though I have had to do showering while keeping my foot dry many, many times I never worked out a way of doing it that wasn't awkward.
posted by Vortisaur at 8:58 AM on July 25

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