Severe and Life Threatening Infections from a Pedicure

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By Cesar Collado

While most strains of bacteria that colonize on our skin are harmless to us, they can pose serious health problems to others. Our skin is populated by an entire world of diverse bacteria (numbers in billions). As our skin is in constant contact with the environment, bacteria and other pathogens have easy access to colonize on our bodies. Most of the bacteria that reside on skin and hair are either communalistic (beneficial to the bacteria but do not help or harm the host) or mutualistic (beneficial to both the bacteria and the host). 

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Some skin bacteria even protect against pathogenic bacteria by secreting substances that prevent harmful microbes from taking up residence. Others protect against pathogens by alerting immune system cells and inducing an immune response.  These bacteria can cause everything from mild infections (boils, abscesses, and cellulitis) to serious infections of the blood, meningitis, sepsis that can lead to amputations or even death.

Skin bacteria are characterized by the type of environment in which they thrive:

  1. sebaceous or oily areas (head, neck, and trunk); 

  2. moist areas (creases of the elbow and between the toes, sweaty feet in socks and shoes);

  3. dry areas (broad surfaces of the arms and legs).

Staphylococcus are common on the skin of individuals.  Approximately 33% of the population have Staphylococcus colonizing on their skin without infection.  What is not common knowledge is that Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (“MRSA”) can also be on an individual’s skin while they are not infected as well.  Approximately 2% of the population have MRSA colonized on their skin.  Since passing of bacteria occurs with contact, exposure to MRSA to even the smallest micro cut in the skin can cause a serious infection that spreads and is resistant to antibiotics.

Bacteria, Feet, and Pedicures 

Most people wear socks and shoes for walking and during their time outside the home.  The moist environment can be a breeding ground for bacteria.  Pedicures become dangerous because bacteria can transfer from one person into their pedicure water and then get trapped in the jets of a foot spa when turned off.

Ineffective cleaning and disinfection protocols of the footbath can leave bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the jets of the footbath. Robert Spalding, a Podiatrist who wrote the book, “Death by Pedicures” observed nail stylists practicing protocol found that 75% of pedicure cleaning between clients do not follow the State’s protocol.  

This means that cracks in feet and heels, micro cuts near nails after filing, removing cuticles, or using pumice or foot files  can expose feet to microbes to the water.  There are cases of minor infections, serious infections, amputations, and even death.

Understanding Risks of Foot Infections from Pedicures

Without proper sanitation, there are serious risks involved in visiting nail salons. These small businesses operate as high-volume operations where the number of clients served by each stylist is the measure of success.  The largest impediment to success is following the state required sanitation protocols.  Regulations for proper cleaning between clients requires a 10-minute running of the foot spa with EPA registered sanitizer to clean the jets. This is frequently omitted to increase the number of clients and thus drive success for the business owner.

While disposable liners provide are inexpensive and provide the appearance of preventing infection, they DO NOT replace proper sanitation! These liners do not address the fact that the inner-workings of the jets in the foot-bath need sanitizing.  The horizontal machinery can harbor infectious pathogens (including toenail fungus) and skin cells (similar to a front-loading washing machine).  Lack of proper sanitation coupled micro abrasions or cuts in the skin using pedicure tools that includes nail and foot files, nail clippers, cuticle management, and cracks in dry skin etc. can expose pedicure clients to infection from bacteria from dead skin cells remaining in the Jets.

It is common for high quality salons follow their state regulatory protocols; however, it is not improper to ask, observe, and even look at their cleaning logs (you have the right to ask to see them).  Foot infections can be avoided if good hygiene and proper foot care is performed. 

The Worry Free Pedi Solution

Worry Free Pedi Sanitizing Tablets were created to address the issue that not all nail salons follow protocol in the interest of time and money.  Disposable liners are commonly used and are meant to assure clients that infection is unlikely; however, they do not address the State Required 10-minute cleaning of the jets.  

Considering the volume of feet that have been treated in the foot spa in the salon and the high percentage of salons that do not follow State or EPA protocol, it is impossible to say that NOT getting a severe staph or MRSA infection is guaranteed.

This constant risk can be mitigated every time you get a pedicure by dropping a simple tablet into the water and letting it dissolve in 60 seconds. Then, you can rest assured that the jets are being exposed to an EPA registered sanitizer that kills 99.99 percent of microbes in the water and jets. Worry Free Pedi invested years of development and testing to obtain EPA registration specifically for this purpose.