Appropriate hand hygiene includes diligently cleaning and trimming fingernails, which may harbor dirt and germs and can contribute to the spread of some infections, such as pinworms. Fingernails should be kept short, and the undersides should be cleaned frequently with soap and water. Because of their length, longer fingernails can harbor more dirt and bacteria than short nails, thus potentially contributing to the spread of infection.
Before clipping or grooming nails, all equipment (for example, nail clippers and files) should be properly cleaned. Sterilizing equipment before use is especially important when nail tools are shared among a number of people, as is common in commercial nail salons.
Infections of the fingernails or toenails are often characterized by swelling of the surrounding skin, pain in the surrounding area, or thickening of the nail. In some cases, these infections may be serious and need to be treated by a physician.
To help prevent the spread of germs and nail infections:
- Keep nails short and trim them often.
- Scrub the underside of nails with soap and water (or a nail brush) every time you wash your hands.
- Clean any nail grooming tools before use.
- In commercial settings such as nail salons, sterilize nail grooming tools before use.
- Avoid biting or chewing nails.
- Avoid cutting cuticles, as they act as barriers to prevent infection.
- Never rip or bite a hangnail. Instead, clip it with a clean, sanitized nail trimmer.