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Summertime is sandal time. Feet and toes are more exposed, prompting many people to get pedicures. Well-manicured fingers are often in demand for that special summer event or vacation.

But how safe is it when going to a nail salon or spa and receiving a professional manicure/pedicure? Pulse recently consulted with David Rand, MD, infectious disease specialist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center, on manicure/pedicure safety.

What types of infections can be transmitted to people who have received a manicure and/or pedicure in unsafe or unclean conditions?

One of the up-and-coming infections is Mycobacterium fortuitum. This is a tuberculosis-like organism that causes skin and soft tissue infections. It requires a prolonged course of therapy with antibiotics and sometimes even surgery. There have been several reports of this bug being found in the footbaths of nail salons. It is not necessarily an epidemic but is certainly something to consider. Other common infections would include staph, strep and pseudomonas. Staph and strep infections can grow rapidly and have the potential to be quite serious.

What are the typical sources of exposure to infectious microorganisms when receiving a manicure or a pedicure—contaminated tools, technician’s hands, foot- and hand-soaking basins, nail polish bottles or all of the above?

Typical sources of contamination are the footbaths—the water specifically—for Mycobacterium fortuitum. Tools would be another source if not adequately cleaned between patrons. In addition, one’s own skin bacteria can be introduced via small cuts or abrasions obtained during the manicure/ pedicure. Contaminated technician hands can be another source for transmitting germs to customers.

What strategies can a customer employ to prevent becoming exposed to major as well as minor disease- or illness-causing microorganisms?

Be proactive. Ask management how often they change and clean their footbaths and how and what they clean their tools with. Alcohol-based cleaners that are at least 70% isopropyl alcohol are appropriate, as are cleaning footbaths with bleach between uses—EVERY use. Other cleaning agents tend to be less effective, such as benzalkonium chloride. You can also bring your own sterile equipment. Ensuring that a salon is licensed is important also.

Is there anything else you’d like to add or advise readers regarding this health concern?

Enjoy your manicure/pedicure. Although infection is possible, I would say they are not common. Take a few precautions such as bringing your own tools or at least asking if their tools are cleaned with alcohol between customers. Also, ensure that the footbaths are cleaned with bleach after each use and between patrons

Categories: Health Tip

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