Long nails are usually associated with a style choice or preference, but can long nails make you sick?
There are a lot of jobs where you can’t wear nail polish to work or have long nails – be them fake or natural. Reasons can stem from branding i.e. they don’t fit in with the company image, or genuine health concerns for the customers that you interact with during your working hours.
Long Nails & Bacteria
A study was conducted on 18 health-care workers by the Infectious Disease Society of America. They found that all members of staff with long nails (3mm longer than the fingertip) carried harmful bacteria under their fingernails. When compared to the health-care workers with shorter nails only 18% had harmful bacteria under their nails.
Part of nurses training specifies that “long nails are known to harbor bacteria” and “infection guidelines require that nails be no longer than a quarter inch.” “False nails are not to be worn because they carry bacteria.”
Long Nails & Children
For the reasons mentioned above, it’s crucial that you really wash your hands and make sure they’re clean if you are going to be around children – especially young children and new born babies. Very young children do not have the same immune system defense as adults and are therefore, are more vulnerable to germs, often with more serious consequences.
Longer nails, especially acrylic and false nails are potentially more dangerous for harboring germs, viruses and bacteria. However, short nails that are not cleaned properly also carry a lot of these risks.
Men’s nails carry almost 10% more bacteria than women’s nails. In a study conducted by Aston University, the particular bacteria found under the subject’s nails were associated with causing vomitting, stomach aches and gastroenteritis.
Tips For Having Long Nails
Wash Nails Properly
Long nails are more susceptible to storing germs so it’s important that you wash them properly. When washing your hands make sure that the underside of your nails are involved. Some people only wash their hands, palms and fingers without really soaping and rinsing the underside of their nails.
Use A Nail Brush
If your nails are very long/ you’ve been around people that are sick/ your hands have gotten very dirty during the day – use a nail brush to gently scrub the underside of your nails. The bristles will be able to sweep away lingering dirt and germs. However, you also need to keep that brush very clean – rinse in boiling water with soap and disinfectant before use.
Use Hand Gel
Use hand gel (hand sanitizer) a few times throughout the day, particularly when you’re out and about, to help get rid of any germs trying to lurk on your nails. Again, just make sure that the underside of your nails are getting the benefit of the hand gel.
Both short and long nails require proper nail care and nail hygiene. Just be a little more thorough if you have long nails to ensure that your long nails don’t make you sick!
- Bacterial Carriage on the Fingernails OR Nurses
- Prevalence of Bacteria and Intestinal Parasites among Food Handlers (2008); Gashaw, Andajerie
- Harmful Germs Found Under Nails, (2008); BBC News
- Study Links Long Fingernails to Bacteria, ABC News
- p. 55 Saunders Student Nurse Planner 2014 – 2015 (2014); DeWilt, Susan
- p. 10 Hygiene and Related Behaviours for Children and Adults with Autism (2009); Maller, Kelly
- Effects of Nail Polish on Microbacterial Growth of Fingernails (1993), Bamumgardner, Charlene