Nail Fungus: Where STEM & Style Meet

[tweetthis]Do you worry about nail fungus? [/tweetthis]It’s something that’s nearly impossible to cure without prescription medication.  And many of the medicines can be hard on the liver. Plus, fungus is everywhere, and often comes back, even after a “cure.”  Guess what else?  Sometimes it’s something other than nail fungus that’s giving the nails that funky look.

Discolored, flakey, ridged nails can be caused by many things other than fungus.  It’s often difficult for even a doctor to know whether a person has nail fungus.  Sometimes, as we age, we develop senile nails.  Yes, that’s a technical term.  The nails become brittle and develop ridges and separation of the nail layers at the end of the nail.   If you want to get really paranoid about what your nails might be telling you about your health, check out this slide-show:

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Nail fungus is not particularly contagious from one person to another.  Prolonged intimate contact or contaminated tools may cause person to person spread of the disease.  People with diabetes, AIDS, cancer, or psoriasis are more likely to get nail fungus. Besides prescription medication, there are lots of ineffective ‘home remedies.’ Vinegar, Vicks, and my favorite, 50:50 whisky and lemon juice.

The good news is that unless the nail fungus is causing pain or other functional symptoms, there’s no reason, other than cosmetic to treat it.  The best thing to do is keep the nails short and avoid warm, damp feet.  The same fungus that causes athletes foot can cause nail fungus, so the same precautions are in order.  Except, since the skin is a lot more porous than nails, athletes foot can be cured fairly easily.  By the way, that’s the same fungus that causes jock-itch and crotch-rot. (Eww!)

nails - 2Where salons are concerned,[tweetthis] Denise Knochel, from Salon Cora in Prairie Grove, wants people to be aware, so they have no regrets. [/tweetthis]The most important thing she says, “Make sure the operator has a current license for the services. Nail Technicians require 350 hours of training. They can do manicures, pedicures, sculpting, nail art and wraps.

Since nail fungus is so easy to get and so difficult to treat, here are a few ways to prevent it:

  1. Keep your toenails short, and don’t dig into the corners of your nails when cutting toenails.
  2. Keep feet clean, and dry them thoroughly.
  3. Wear dry socks and no tight shoes.
  4. Alternate your exercise shoes.
  5. Don’t soak your hands in water or use harsh cleaners.
  6. Treat athlete’s foot when it occurs

When visiting a salon, look around to see if the salon is following health and safety guidelines:

  • Is the overall appearance of the shop clean? Are the sinks dirty?
  • Are the trash cans overflowing?
  • Are current operator licenses posted in plain view at each workstation?
  • Are the operators performing only those services they are licensed for?
  • Do the operators use disposable instruments or do they properly disinfecting their instruments between clients?
  • Does the basin of the foot spa look clean? Don’t be afraid to ask the operator if he or she has removed the jets and screen during cleaning.
  • Are items that cannot be disinfected, such as emery boards, cotton pads, nail files, nail buffers, etc., immediately thrown away after use on clients? Are clean items stored separately from soiled ones at the operator’s workstation. Are combs and brushes clean? Are manicuring instruments stored in a clean place and not hanging on the side of a cup or jar?
  • Are clean towels stored in a closed, clean cabinet?
  • Are soiled towels put in a covered receptacle? Is a clean towel provided for each client?
  • Did the operator wash his or her hands before beginning services on you?
  • Are the operators using instruments such as Credo blades, cheese grater-type metal scrapers, and lancets? These instruments are for medical personnel. Do not let an operator use them.

Develop a “good relationship with the salon and the operators.” That makes it easier to ask questions. Any operator should have a friendly attitude and be open to questions. , “not everyone is reputable.” Some salons try to cut corners by offering the styles and treatments without proper training.

In my State, salon licensing is regulated under the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation: (225 ILCS 410/) Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act of 1985. Although standards are in place for health and safety, licenses are revoked based on investigation of complaints, not routine inspections.

Summertime is the time when people shed a few layers of clothes, so they often pay more attention to their skin, hair, and nails. It’s one thing to be disappointed with the outcome at a salon and quite another to end up injured or hospitalized due to poor sanitary practices. A little due diligence can go a long way toward a healthy summer.nails - 1