While you may think you have more important things to worry about health-wise than nail hygiene, keeping your fingernails and toenails clean and trim is actually quite crucial. It’s not just an aesthetic thing – proper nail hygiene can prevent some pretty nasty infections.
Here are just three of the reasons to keep your nails in top shape:
Toenail fungus is not only unsightly, but contagious
Nail fungus, which usually first appears as a small yellow, white or green speck near the edge of your nail, can quickly spread across and into your nail. Before long, it can affect your entire nail bed, and you may find that even your new nail growth has the fungus.
This can then spread to your fingernails, or to the nails of anyone who happens to touch the affected area. If you get a foot massage, or share a pair of nail clippers, the fungus can easily travel to another person.
To help prevent this nasty condition, make sure your shoes are not too tight, keep your feet clean and dry, and make sure to clean your nail clippers, files and other metal nail equipment after every use. Eating a nutritious diet, with plenty of fermented probiotic foods included can also help prevent a fungus from forming.
Dirty fingernails can do more harm than you may think
Underneath your fingernails, millions of germs can lurk. Unless you take special care to make sure these areas are clean, these germs can easily enter your body when you touch your face or eat, or be transmitted to others you are in contact with. This can lead to infections and/or allergic reactions.
Very long fingernails are especially risky, as it can be very difficult to thoroughly clean them. Various bacteria can lurk under the nails, and even worm eggs have been found to be picked up this way.
If you have a foot or toenail fungus, it can easily be spread across your body via your fingernails if you happen to touch your feet and do not immediately wash your hands and clean under your nails.
When you wash your hands, pay special attention to the area under your nails. One way is to actually dig your nails into your soap when you wash. If you encounter hard-to-remove dirt, use a toothpick dipped in witch hazel to remove it. This same hygiene procedure goes for toenails.
Ingrown nails are a painful proposition
If you’ve ever had an ingrown fingernail or toenail, you know just how much this condition can hurt. An ingrown nail is characterized by a piece of the nail cutting into the skin, either from nails growing too long without maintenance or from wearing very tight shoes. Depending on the nail and how deeply embedded it is, it can be difficult to remove, and may become infected.
Severely ingrown nails require prompt medical attention. However, if you’ve got a mild case, try soaking it in warm water with epsom salt for about 20 minutes, then gently filing the top center of the nail until it is slightly thinner and the ingrown portion can be lifted out. You may need to repeat the soak several times.
You may also try placing a bit of cotton under the ingrown edge of the nail after you soak, to help guide the nail to grow away from the skin. Be sure to change the cotton twice a day.
On a side note, changes in the appearance of your fingernails or toenails – such as ridges or discolorations – could indicate an underlying condition. Check out our recent article on what nail abnormalities can tell you about your health.
Also, you may wish to read up on natural ways to keep your nails looking their best.
-The Alternative Daily