Most every adult woman (and an occasional man) has enjoyed a manicure and a pedicure at a nail salon or spa. That 30 minute pedicure can be so relaxing but are you aware of the danger lurking in that nail salon? Although few individuals recognize the medical risks associated with this common practice, there is no doubt that the nail salons and spas who don't follow infection control guidelines are in a prefect position to spread Hepatitis C. Unless you are bringing your own tools for them to use, you are putting yourself at risk for this virus.
I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2004. In 2005 - 2006 I went thru 48 weeks of a grueling treatment that left me weak, battered and worn but it killed my HCV. I reached SVR (Sustained VIral Response) in December of 2006. I am cured of this virus but the thought of getting re-infected scares the bejesus out of me. This virus is spread by blood to blood contact. Personal care items such as razors, nail clippers, cuticle sticks and Emory boards are known vehicles for passing this infection. Small traces of blood can be found on these items and we usually don't pay much attention to it. In our homes, we know not to share these items but do you think about that when you go to get a manicure? About a year ago, for my birthday, my daughter-in-law treated me to a manicure and pedicure. I was horrified at what I saw and I was scared to death for the outcome of my yearly HCV test. Personally, I will never, ever go in for a manicure and pedicure again. What I went thru to clear this virus is not worth risking for the sake of vanity. At least not for me.
There is a possibility of contracting not only Hepatitis C but also Hepatitis B at your local nail salon. This happens more frequently than we realize and many people who have treated and cleared the HCV virus will think they have relapsed when in fact, it is a new infection. The operators of nail salons seem to think that keeping their instruments in a glass with cotton balls soaked in alcohol is all the sterilization they need. Alcohol will NOT kill the Hepatitis virus and the virus can live for days outside the body. Currently there are no federally mandated infection control guidelines for use in nail salons or hair salons for that matter. Nail salons are regulated at a State level and they are not being required to practice infection control. When you go to get a manicure or pedicure you have to realize that trace amounts of blood can be found in the nail files, nail brushes, finger bowls, foot basins and buffers. The same can be said for razors, clippers and scissors at a hair salon. Unfortunately, an increasing number of chronic hepatitis cases are being attributed to poor sanitary practices at nail salons. Until such time that there is proper training for all nail salon workers, education about how hepatitis and other blood-borne infections are transmitted, emphasis placed on the principles of good hygiene and disinfection and strict requirements on personal hygiene, storage, disinfection and inspections, there will be a risk of contracting Hepatitis C and/or B at your local nail salon.
In a perfect world, safety precautions and infection control would be followed in all nail and hair salons. This isn't a perfect world. There are gaping violations in infection control practices in the majority of of these salons putting the consumer at great risk. The following is intended to help guide you on how to safely receive a manicure or pedicure:
- Ask the salon staff how they clean and disinfect their equipment.
- Observe the nail technicians to check for tools being reused without being sterilized. If you see this happen even once, it is happening all the time.
- Bring your own clippers, razors, buffers and nail files with you and insist they use yours.
- If hygiene doesn't seem to be a priority in the salon, take your business elsewhere. If everyone adopted this philosophy it would force change in the industry.
Getting a manicure and a pedicure is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing experience. A bit of pampering if you will. Unfortunately, the possibility of acquiring a viral hepatitis infection is a real threat when you are visiting a salon that is not using good infection control practices. Until there is better legislation and enforcement of nail salons and spas in the U.S., it is the responsibility of the consumer to make sure you are protected. For me, it's not worth the risk. I'll do my own nails, thank you.