Treating yourself to a manicure or pedicure at a nail salon should be a relaxing and pleasurable experience that leaves you with nicely painted, trimmed nails. Sometimes, however, you can walk away with something else, a fungal infection. Having a finger or toenail infection is not only a common condition, but it can be a worrisome and potentially painful experience.
Fungal Infection Symptoms
Nail fungal infections usually start off as a white or yellow spot at the tip of the nail. Later, as the fungus spreads, the nail may become discolored, thicken, lose luster and shine, change in shape and develop crumbling edges, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. For some people, it may also cause pain, odor or separation of the nail from the nail bed.
What Spreads the Fungus?
A nail salon is a public place with chairs, tools, brushes and towels that come into contact with many people. Some customers may have an existing fungal infection, and if shared items are not properly cleaned, other customers may get infected as well. Lax employee hand washing may also lead to the spread of fungus. Additionally, the cutting of cuticles, the seal that serves as a barrier between the nail and the nail bed, allows fungi to enter the body more easily.
Schedule a Doctor's Appointment
If you suspect that you may have a nail fungal infection, you should consult your physician. Prescription oral anti-fungal medicines such as Lamisil or Sporanox, rather than over-the-counter creams, should be used to treat the fungus, according to MedlinePlus.com. For more serious cases, your doctor may suggest an anti-fungal nail polish called Penlac; an anti-fungal topical medication to be used with oral medicine; or surgery in severe cases in which the nail is removed.
Warnings and Serious Complications
While nail fungal infections may be unsightly, they may also be dangerous to those with weakened immune systems, according to CNN Health. The immune system’s job is to respond to any invasion by foreign bodies such as fungi, but if your immunity is weak because of disease, it may not be able to do its job. People with AIDS, leukemia or who are organ transplant recipients may have infections that spread beyond their hands or feet, which may lead to serious complications and require extensive medical care.
Prevent Future Fungal Infections
Several precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of getting a fungal infection at a salon. Going to a licensed salon, asking about the salon's sanitation processes, bringing your own nail tools and requesting that employees wash their hands and wear rubber gloves are preventive measures. Finally, use common sense when you decide where to get your nails done. If the salon does not look or smell clean, then you are probably better off going somewhere else.