Fingernails. Photo credit flickr

It is a common thing today to see young people especially the feminine gender keeping long nails in the name of beauty. While that maybe fashionable, it is an open invitation to bacteria to dwell in there hence causing diseases. Long nails not only house these harmful organisms but have the tendency of spreading them when there is an open cut. Fingernails are basically composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin-which grow from the area at the base of the nail under the cuticle. Sometimes, fingernails develop harmless vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Fingernails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.
About the condition of the nails, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist, who is a doctor who studies and treats skin disease, especially when these signs listed below are evident:
Discolouration of the entire nail or a dark streak under the nail
Appearance of curled nails or change in shape of the nails
Separation of the nail from the surrounding skin
Bleeding around nails
Swelling or pain around the nails
However, recent study conducted by the Infectious Disease Society of America ascertain the fact that nails that are longer than three millimetres beyond the tip of the finger carry harmful bacteria and yeast under them. It went further to suggest that improper washing of nails doesn’t eradicate bacteria under the nails, i.e., people do not wash their hands well enough to get rid of all the germs under their nails. It is advisable for people to spend at least spend 15 seconds in washing of their hands and cleaning underneath their nails to get rid of the unseen germs.
Reason for this advice is not farfetched, our hands come in contact with hundreds of object everyday from the smallest book in the shelf to read to the biggest fry pan in the kitchen to cook, the floor in contact with our feet and we tend to them when relaxing. Long nails have the potential to cause a number of health problems since it’s a breeding place for germs and dirt to stay. Even health experts are of the opinion that nails should be trimmed short and kept clean. Below are reasons why long nails could be harmful to one’s health:
Injury could occur when nails get caught in zippers, windows or any of such objects
Straining of one’s finger when trying to type with longer fingernails. More so, texts are typed slower with long nails.
Easy entry of bacteria into one’s body when infected hands are used to eat food without proper washing.
When scratching your skin, you can unconsciously injure your skin and if the nail contains bacteria or any of such organisms, it could lead to ill health.
Difficulty in gripping anything especially because there is an endeavour not to break the nails.
It’s worthwhile to remind ourselves what we learnt in primary and secondary school especially in Home Economics class, as we are constantly reminded that health is wealth. Hence, maintaining of one’s nail is a proven method of preserving one’s health. For those who can’t resist keeping long nails, here are some tips to help maintain your nails:
Avoid using your nails to open object, it could scrape off a part of the nail, making it sharp and dangerous.
Ensure you wear gloves cooking, proper cleaning and washing of the nails to prevent germs from collecting under your fingernails.
Avoid biting nails; it could be an easy route for bacteria into the body. Also it is a bad habit.
Clean your nail beds and cuticles often and use sanitizer regularly
Nutritional diet containing Calcium, proteins and Vitamins should be taken to keep your nails healthy.
In summary, it’s important to remind ourselves ways of keeping our nails looking at their best:
1. Keep fingernails dry and clean: This prevent bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Repeated or prolonged contact wit water can contribute to split fingernails
2. Practice good nail hygiene: use a manicure scissors or chippers to trim your nails
3. Use moisturizer: when using hand lotion, rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles
4. Apply a protective layer: applying a nail hardener might help strengthen your nails
5. Ask your doctor about biotin: some research suggests that the nutritional supplement biotin might help strengthen weak or brittle fingernails.

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