By Michael Nirenberg, DPM
Nothing beats rewarding our tired, aching feet, toes, and ankles with a relaxing pedicure. It eases tension, and makes our feet feel and look better. However, like so many other pleasures in life, pedicures can be dangerous.
The main culprit is germs. In one salon, over 100 customers developed an infection from a dirty whirlpool. Over the years I’ve treated several people who developed infections after pedicures, and in one tragic case, the woman needed her big toe amputated.
The good news is that you can do a few simple things to minimize this danger:
Consider your health first. Do you have diabetes, poor circulation, neuropathy (numbness or burning in the feet or toes), or skin problems on your feet? These may increase your risk of infection, and you shouldn’t chance a pedicure. If you aren’t sure if you’re healthy enough for a pedicure, have your feet checked by a podiatrist.
Any breaks in the skin, nicks, cuts, or other sores on your legs, feet, or ankles increase the risk of germs penetrating your skin. And until these problems heal, you should avoid pedicures.
For added protection, don’t shave your legs for at least one day prior to your pedicure. Razors can leave tiny breaks in the skin too small for you to see, but large enough for nasty bacteria to enter.
At your first visit or over the phone before you go, ask the pedicurist or nail salon the following questions:
They should be. And you should be able to see the license prominently displayed.
If not, ask how they clean the instruments. The best way to kill germs is by cleaning the instruments in a sterilization machine called an autoclave. Soaking instruments in a disinfectant solution is not as good, but can be effective if a hospital grade disinfectant is used and the solution is changed regularly.
Footbaths can breed germs. If the customer who last used it had an infected sore on their foot, you’ll want to be sure the salon disinfected it properly.
The salon should be clean with no dirt, debris, or hair or nail clippings on the floor or counters. And it should be organized, with bottles clearly labeled and instruments put away in drawers or containers. If this is not the case, the salon probably isn’t taking the time to properly disinfect footbaths or instruments.
The pedicurist should be neat and presentable, with clean hands or, better yet, they should wear latex gloves. And prior to the pedicure, he or she should examine your feet, toes, and ankles and ask about medical problems that may affect your feet.
A pedicure should never hurt. Pain during a pedicure may mean the pedicurist is doing something wrong or it could be a signal your foot has a problem that needs medical attention. Either way, pain means it’s time to stop the pedicure.
When salons follow some relatively simple steps, pedicures can be safe, soothing, and a great reward for our battered feet, toes, and ankles. If you have doubts about your salon or pedicurist, don’t risk your health; trust your instincts and go somewhere else.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nirenberg or another podiatrist at Friendly Foot Care, please call (219)663-2273. To learn more about our amazing feet and ankles, visit Dr. Nirenberg’s blog America’s Podiatrist.