When asked what my favorite season is I would have to say spring. I admit, I’m a bit biased as I was born in the spring. While I do so love the warm weather of summer and beautiful colours of fall, I think I love spring most as it signifies the end of winter, the last of the snow and getting back into sandals or at the very least open-toed shoes! Wearing shoes that show off your toes often means a mad dash to your closest nail salon to have your feet and toes gussied up.
Most nail salons see a steady parade of business throughout the year. Nails get cut and filed, feet soak in tubs, cuticles get pushed back and trimmed, and calluses get buffed. And while the majority of nail salon visits won't send you on your way with anything other than an excellent manicure and pedicure, customers and salon workers are at risk for spreading infections. In fact there have been numerous outbreaks associated with poor cleaning and disinfection practices at nail salons and spas over the years. The following are merely some of the bugs you should be on the lookout for!
Despite its name, athlete's foot affects people regardless of their athletic prowess. It's the common name for Tinea pedis, a fungal infection that requires a moist, confined environment to take root and spread. Unfortunately, the pedicure baths of a salon or spa provide the perfect breeding ground due to the amount of feet that get put into the same tub; most of which are far from clean so you may want to spend a little time focusing on the cleanliness of the salon you’re in. A fungus isn’t so easily removed from the surfaces it grows on, so a light cleaning may not rid a tub of its presence. Frequent use of a disinfectant that carries a fungicidal claim is the best way to prevent spa clients from getting athlete's foot from a foot tub.
Warts are caused by a contagious virus called Human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different strains of the virus (such as the type that can cause cervical cancer), but only a few different kinds spur the overproduction of skin cells that results in warts. Warts spread through person-to-person contact when HPV makes contact with a break in the skin or when a salon worker uses the same pumice stone for different clients. Most salons offer new pumice stones but if you want to be absolutely sure, you can always bring your own to lower the risk of getting warts.
Antibiotic resistant organisms are also a concern. In recent years, you've likely noticed an uptick in stories about a type of staph infection called Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus; the dreaded MRSA. MRSA infections can lead to severe scarring, amputation and even death. Though not common, MRSA is known to be spread at nail salons, leading to infections on hands or feet and beneath fingernails. MRSA can be spread through the sharing of improperly cleaned nail instruments or reusing nail files. Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours and you'll likely experience pain in your hands or feet. The swollen, red skin around the infected area will crack open and ooze pus.
This last nasty bug might give you a good reason not to shave your legs. You can get Mycobacterium fortuitum from foot baths and the risk is greatly increased when a soak is preceded by leg shaving. M. fortuitum infections consist of large boils on the toe, foot or leg. These boils may be surrounded by smaller bumps. Sometimes they heal on their own, but sometimes they linger and can even turn into open sores. M. fortuitum boils can be lanced by a medical professional and treated with extremely potent antibiotics, but unfortunately, these boils and sores can cause heavy scarring. To avoid getting this bug, pay attention to any regional reports of M. fortuitum outbreaks.
The long and the short is that we should not be afraid to ask the salon owner about the establishment's cleaning procedures. If you want to learn more about how you can keep safe at your next manicure or pedicure appointment check out our Pedicure Peril education campaign! We hope your next manicure or pedicure will be a relaxing and infection free experience!