Are Pedicures Safe?

A very common question patients ask me is, “Are Pedicures Safe?”. 

The short answer is maybe.  It has been reported that 75% of all nail salons in the US operate without using proper sterilization techniques.  Any public place where many people visit will result in a high level of germs.  This is especially true with pedicures at salons since bare feet are every where. 

When you combine many types of germs, and the possible injury to the skin caused by the nail technician, you can have a recipe for disaster. 

Recently in the news, a man who received a foot spa treatment from a local salon in Illinois died due to complications of infection. This was allegedly caused by the negligence of the salon.  The water that was used to soak the man’s feet was possibly too hot or had an irritating chemical that caused the man’s legs to develop blisters and ulcers.  These skin lesions became infected and the man underwent a below knee amputation to get rid of the infection.  Medical complications after the amputation ultimately led to his death.  This situation is very unfortunate and I hope that this motivates salons to take more precautions and make pedicures safe. 

Sadly, this story is not uncommon with regards to infections occurring after visiting a nail salon.  That being said let us talk about the risks of having your toenails pampered at the salon.  The number one complication that I see with patient’s who visit a nail salon is infection of the toe.  Infections can be caused by a variety of germs and when the nail technician pushes back the cuticle, it is a perfect opening for germs to enter the soft tissue around the nail.  The accidental cutting of the skin around the nail also creates an entryway for bacteria to grow into.  The skin is the largest organ of the human body and one of its main functions is to act as a barrier to the pathogens that surround us in our daily lives.  When we penetrate this barrier it is very easy to acquire an infection from the surrounding germs in the environment.  A simple cut of the skin can progress into a serious medical situation. 

Another risk is soaking the feet in warm water.  Sometimes the water can cause skin breakdown and result in a skin infection.  This infection, as mentioned above, can result in severe complications.  Avoiding hot water can help make pedicures safe.

Whirlpool therapy of wounds was utilized in the past but has now been discontinued due to its high rate of infection.  The theory is that even after sanitization the inner mechanisms and tubes of the whirlpool trap bacteria which can cause an infection.  Foot soaks and whirlpools in general are not dangerous, but the risk is present especially with diabetic patients. 

Having diabetes is a risk factor in general for any break in the skin.  Unfortunately, most diabetics have poor healing potential and are at higher risk for infections.  With diabetes it is recommended that you do not have your nails pampered at a salon because it is not worth the risk.  Have your podiatrist trim your nails and calluses for you so that the risk of infection is low.  At Advanced Podiatry we try to prevent complications of diabetes by performing consistent foot exams for our diabetic population.   By catching small problems we can prevent future complications.  Please make your appointment today by calling 813-875-0555 so that we can help ensure your feet a healthy future.