Your fingernails tell a story. If they have a French manicure, you might be a working professional. If they are clipped short with dirt beneath the nail, you might be a mechanic. If they are ragged and bitten to the nub, you are most likely a nervous person. But it’s the untold story beneath your nails that everyone should really care about!
Fingernails and Bacteria
Some gory truths are unveiled in the NineMSN Health&Wellbeing article, “What really lives under the nails we chew?” They warn that scratching yourself with your nails can cause infections, quoting Dr. David Katz of Yale University as saying, “Let’s just say you had an itch and you scratched a little bit too hard and you abraded your skin, germs living under your fingernail would get under your skin barrier and cause infection to yourself and, obviously, we have the same potential to transmit germs to other people,”
Dr. Katz conducted a test, using a swab to take samples from beneath fingernails of a group of people who felt their hands were clean. His test swabs revealed staphylococcus and skin flora. Staphylococcus can cause toxic shock and impetigo.
Are Long Nails More Germy?
Hygiene is important whether your nails are short or long and cleanliness is dependent on the person who is doing the washing. However, Dr. Katz’s conclusion was that long nails are worse than short, and it didn’t matter whether the nails were painted or not.
Yahoo’s Shine article, “5 frightening truths about the germs under your fingernails (and his!)” supports Dr. Katz’s findings. The article claims artificial nails are the worst, warning, “They may look cleaner, because they mask what’s building up underneath, say experts. And, what’s lurking under there, well, it’s not so pretty.”
Whose Nails are Worse: A Guy’s or a Hospital Worker’s?
Hospital Workers! It’s probably no shock that research has shown that guys are usually carrying around bacteria under their nails from not washing often enough or after using the toilet. But doctors, nurses and hospital workers might harbor more deadly infections under their nails that they share with their sickly patients. Add in long fingernails and the risk factors rise.
In her March 24, 2000 Associated Press article, “Nail Bacteria Linked to Baby Deaths” Carol Cole covered the deaths of two babies in an Oklahoma hospital . She wrote, “Bacteria found under the long fingernails of two nurses may have contributed to the deaths of 16 sickly babies in 1997 and 1998 in an Oklahoma City hospital, researchers say.” While the investigation by the CDC and Oklahoma health department was not conclusive, the report indicated a strong connection.
Dr. Roger Sheldon, the medical director of the hospital involved commented that the bacteria, pseudomonas aeruginosa, is not uncommon in hospital nurseries in the U.S.,
What Can You Do to Reduce Germs Under Your Fingernails?
Now that the ICK-factor has risen in your consciousness, here are some things you can do to reduce spreading germs within your circle.
1. Be diligent in washing both sides of your nails, using a nail brush (or a toothbrush dedicated for this purpose) to remove as much bacteria as possible each time you wash. Spend more energy on your nails if you have long nails.
2. Wash with antibacterial hand soap.
3. Wash hands for twenty seconds and then rinse for twenty seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself as you wash and wash for the duration of the song!
4. Always wash hands after using the toilet or handling a pet, and before eating or cooking, handling contact lenses, having sex or dressing a wound.
5. Teach children the importance of washing their hands adequately.
6. Ask doctors or nurses to wash their hands before examinations.
7. Wipe down computer keyboards with antibacterial wipes regularly.
The Good News and Bad News about Nail Biting and Germs
The good news: If your friend is a nail biter, his nails may actually be cleaner for you, because he has eaten the bacteria from under his nails.
The bad news: Your nail-biting friend is swallowing all those germs on a regular basis!
Dr. Stephen Chu, Clinical Associate Professor at the New York University College of Dentistry claims that nail biting does more than put stress on your teeth. He claims that nail biting can do as much damage as poor dental hygiene!
It’s impossible to eliminate fingernail germs from our lives if we interact with other people. But we are in control of our own habits, and can improve the cleanliness of our own hands and nails. Cleaning our nails regularly and adequately is important for our health and the people around us. Excuse me now, I need to go wash my hands and scrub my nails!
Ninemsn.com, Health&Wellbeing, “What really lives under the nails we chew?”
Yahoo! Shine, Healthy Living, “5 frightening truths about the germs under your fingernails (and his!)”
Earth Changes TV, AP article, “Nail Bacteria Linked to Baby Deaths”