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What lovely nails you have!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What lovely nails you have!

Most people see long, painted nails and think: how beautiful! I see long, or acrylic, nails and think: Good gravy, I wonder what is growing under those! Moreover, when I see people biting or chewing on their nails, I get super grossed out.  It made me think  that the average person does not know what is lurking under those nails, and how to truly get them clean.  Nails are just dead protein, keratin, like the hair on our heads, and they grow faster in summer because of the warm weather, we are more active, thus raising our metabolism, and allowing our nails to grow faster.  But these beautiful nails that we have, whilst helpful in texting, typing, and giving a good scratch, they can have breeds of bacteria under them, and be a source of infection for our bodies!

What kind of bacteria is lurking?
So many different forms of bacteria have been found under peoples nails when they are cultured ranging from Staphylococcus Aureus (the bacteria responsible to skin infections, flesh eating bacteria, toxic shock, etc) to Klebsiella (can cause skin infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, etc) to Candida parapsilosis (a yeast that can cause very serious and difficult to treat skin, wound, and GI tract infections).  Also, if people do not wash hands properly after using the bathroom OR after changing diapers, Salmonella and E. Coli has been found under nails.

Why is this so important?
These bacteria found under nails are obviously really important to know for healthcare workers, to prevent the spread to our patients, but think about every single person you come in contact with every day, that somehow their fingernail cleanliness can affect you: a cashier giving you change (transfer can occur on money), a food worker (what if their long nails poke microscopic holes in their gloves? your sandwich is now a breeding ground for bacteria), a client that you shook hands with (quick transfer).  And, all the while, you have a bug bite on your leg that you then scratch at: transference of all of those bacteria go right into your skin.  Gross, right?  I don't want you all to be total germophobes, BUT I think that we do all need to think about hand-washing way more than we do.....

What can I do to prevent it?
Keep short (under 3mm), natural nails that are well taken care of (no jagged edges, no biting, etc) and wash your hands for 20 seconds then rinse your hands for 20 seconds EVERY time you wash with antibacterial soap.  When you are washing your hands, pay attention to your nails and really get them clean.  If you have longer nails, you can use an orange stick to scrape out dirt/debris from under the nails while washing, then toss the stick.  But really focus on washing every aspect of your hands, including your nails (an area most people miss).  And wash your hands after using the restroom, changing diapers, and before you are going to eat or use your hands to put things to your mouth, especially if you have been out touching thing in public (like on the subway or a bus).  Keep in your mind that these bacteria are everywhere, and you want them off before they get into you; the best way is to wash, wash, wash!

So steer clear of those long, luxurious, artificial nails that seem beautiful to most, but look like roving petri dishes to me!  Keep them short, clean, and away from those beautiful teeth of yours- not only does it put stress on your teeth that can lead to breakage and stress fractures, but it can put that bacteria right into your mouth.  Yuck!  Keep them short, and keep them clean!

Yours in Good Health
B

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