A trip to the nail salon may welcome infection

By Jennifer Davis
February 22, 2007

The cleanliness of nail salons has become a growing federal concern, according to medicinenet.com. If not cleaned properly, rapid-growing microbacteria will find its way to salons that are unsanitary. Over the years this bacterial trend has become more common.

Gretchen Murphy, a sophomore business major, said, “My brother’s girlfriend got a really bad infection from a pedicure. She started off by getting really itchy. It became unbearable. She was on medication forever.”

Nails serve several physiological purposes: to enhance fine touch, motor skills and protect fingers and toes. More common infections are from bacteria such as staphylococcus, skin viruses and warts, according to medicinenet.com.

According to Podiatrist Dr. Susan Papp-Mlodzidnski of Ankle Foot and Medical Center in Bryn Mawr, Pa., she sees two types of emergencies. There is the acute emergency in which nails are cut too short and this leads to ingrown nails and aggressive office surgery.

Secondly and more commonly, there is mycosis. Polish is applied before the nail is thoroughly dried. “Fungus likes to grow in moist places,” Papp-Mlodzidnski said.

Bacterial and fungal infections frequently result from artificial nails. A bump or knock against a nail causes the nail to lift from its natural base and allows bacteria in, especially if the artificial nail is not glued without proper cleaning, such as rubbing alcohol.

“I had a manicure in which I was cut. The lady smiled sympathetically, said ‘oops’ and continued on with the manicure,” sophomore special elementary education major, Danielle Principato said.

Papp-Mlodzidnski tells her patients that nail salons are like every business, they should be neat and clean.

“It is important to inquire how a salon cleans its equipment and water basin; preferably with iodine or clorox-base solution. Liquid sterilization is the most effective for cleaning metal tools, such as a nail cutter,” Papp-Mlodzidnski said.

Bacterial, fungal and viral infections can occur from using unsanitary nail implements. Unclean implements can be especially dangerous if the skin around the nail is broken. Overzealous manicuring is when the cuticle is cut and pushed back too far. Most dermatologists and podiatrists recommend leaving cuticles intact.

“No cuticle should be cut or pushed back,” said Papp-Mlodzidnski.

Papp-Mlodzidnski does not necessarily believe manicures are hazardous to one’s health. However if not properly sanitized, they have the potential to be. Symptoms of an infection can include pain, redness, itching and discoloration around the nail area.

Potential problems with unsanitary nail salons are not always a concern of some.

“I have never encountered any problems and I am not really worried about it,” said sophomore elementary education major, Samantha Falzone.

The Food Drug and Administration found that fungal infections to the nail respond poorly to typical therapy party because of the nails thickness. In 1993, the FDA ruled that any over the counter products labeled or promoted as a topical anti-fungal to treat fungal infections of the nail must be approved by FDA before marketing, according to medicine.net

In 1994 the ruling went into effect. However it does not include prescription anti-fungal products. Despite the rule some of the companies continue to sell unapproved over counter products such as nail glues.

“I typically use Lamisil tablets to treat common nail fungus,” Papp-Mlodzidnski said.

Without effective treatment, nail fungus infections can spread and may even cause pain or tenderness.

Chesterbrook Nails, a small privately owned nail salon in Chesterbrook, Pa. encourages people to come in to inspect the cleanliness of their salon. Through a machine, equipment is thoroughly sterilized.

“We are very clean. You come in and we will show you everything,” said a source from Chesterbrook Nails.

Jennifer Davis

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