A trip to the nail salon or spa for a pedicure that includes soaking your feet in a tub of warm water may sound relaxing, but danger could be lurking. Pedicure infections can range from common viral infections like warts to more serious viral and bacterial infections that can lead to amputation or even death.
Cause of pedicure infections:
Harmful bacteria is often the culprit if the water in a foot spa isn't properly disinfected. Water flowing through the plumbing, hoses, and filter screens can become contaminated.
Bacteria present in the water can enter any open wound, including an insect bite, on your feet or legs. A break in your skin, even a small one, is all it takes. Once bacteria enter your bloodstream, you are at risk for acquiring any one of many possible infections.
Blood-borne viruses that enter through a break in your skin can also play havoc on your body. A salon's pedicure tools, if contaminated with blood and skin, can be dangerous weapons.
Types of Infections you can acquire from getting a pedicure:
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Although MRSA skin infections generally are treatable, some individuals develop widespread infections that can affect vital organs or lead to sepsis, more commonly known as blood poisoning.
If you have poor circulation in your feet (peripheral arterial disease) or diabetes, which lowers your immune response to infection, you are at higher risk of experiencing serious complications if you get a pedicure infection. The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends avoiding nail salons and having your podiatrist trim your nails if you are diabetic.
Micobacterium fortuitum. Although rarely life threatening, the boils these bacteria cause can leave permanent scars. The infection may cause only one or many lesions, which take time to heal. Sometimes the boils won't heal until your doctor or podiatrist treats them with antibiotics.
Hepatitis C. Although this is a viral, and not a bacterial infection, it can be transmitted during a pedicure, leading to potentially serious health complications. Chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver. The virus is spread by tools and instruments a pedicurist uses that have been exposed to blood and not properly cleaned and sanitized between customers.
Ways to reduce your risk of pedicure infections:
For more information, or if you have concerns about a possible infection, contact a local foot specialist.
Delay getting a foot pedicure at a salon or spa for at least 24 hours after you've shaved your legs. The same goes for the use of hair removal creams or waxing your legs. Bacteria can enter small openings in your skin, including hair follicles and tiny nicks in your skin from shaving, especially if you use a dull razor.
Look for a license and certifications from the state board of health hanging on the walls of the salon where you can easily see them. State health boards conduct inspections to ensure the cleanliness of the equipment and procedures a salon or spa uses.
Check out the restrooms. The cleanliness of the bathrooms often clues you in to the overall cleanliness of the salon or spa.
Frequent a salon that uses a plain tub of water instead of a foot spa where bacteria can thrive in the plumbing and filters. Ask the pedicurist if tubs are soaked with disinfectant for 10 to 15 minutes in between each customer.
Request a disposable tub liner. That way, you will know the tub is clean before you put your feet in the water.
Don't allow the pedicurist to use sharp, bladed instruments when giving you a pedicure. Many states have laws against salons using tools to shave calluses.
Also, any items, such as toe separators, which can't be sterilized should be thrown away after each use. If you really want to err on the side of caution, bring your own instruments with you to the salon.
Watch to see that pedicurists wash their hands before working on the next customer.