Keep Nails Short & Clean: Why Nail Clipping and Hygiene Matter When It Comes to COVID-19

Since the beginning of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, pandemic, healthcare experts have emphasized the importance of handwashing as a basic means to avoid contracting and spreading the disease. Now, nail care specialists are warning about the dangers of long nails in potentially harboring the virus and recommending short and more frequent trimmings.

The CDC warns on its “Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings” page that “[g]erms can live under artificial fingernails both before and after using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and handwashing.” It recommends that healthcare professionals who come into contact with high-risk patients cut their nails short (just a quarter inch or five-eights of a centimeter).

In addition to getting rid of those fake nails and extensions, WedMD medical editor Dr. Neha Pathak told Insider that it’s vital to avoid contact between the nail area and the face. “Respiratory germs like this new coronavirus can’t enter your body unless you let them in through your eyes, nose, or mouth,” she underscored. “Picking at nails and cuticles can put you at risk for bacterial infections around the fingernails.”

Handwashing and Nails

The reason that long nails, artificial nails, painted nails, and chipped nails are so problematic is that they can interfere with proper handwashing, which remains, along with social distancing, the main tool we have in the fight against CCP virus. “It’s really important to clean thoroughly around and underneath your fingernails,” Dr. Pathak reminds people, and anything that would prevent someone from doing so poses a major risk.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Denklim

In a time where everyone is potentially at risk, the population as a whole needs to follow best practices for handwashing. As Dr. Elisabeth Dancey, a cosmetic medicine specialist, told The Daily Mail, doctors know to “rigourously scrub under their nails before donning gloves and performing surgery; with a sterile nail brush and sanitizing solution. We should now follow their example.”

Disinfect Nail Equipment

When it comes to cutting nails, the CDC advises, “Before clipping or grooming nails, all equipment (for example, nail clippers and files) should be properly cleaned” with disinfectants such as diluted bleach or alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol. The agency adds, “Sterilizing equipment before use is especially important when nail tools are shared among a number of people.”

Illustration – Shutterstock | Bjoern Wylezich

While spas and nail salons have been shuttered in many countries because of emergency social distancing measures, the same care should apply to nail files and clippers shared among family members.

How to Cut Your Nails the Safe Way

As for cutting nails, experts recommend going short for hygiene purposes, but not too short. Dr. Jessica Krant, a dermatologist, told the HuffPost that the cut of the nail should follow the natural shape of the nail bed. She warns against cutting too much in the name of hygiene panic. “Do NOT cut all of the white part off,” Dr. Krant warned. “That risks injury to the seal against the nail bed and opens your finger up to infections getting inside.”

Illustration – Shutterstock | ponsulak

After trimming off the excess length, the other important aspect for healthcare professionals and ordinary people trying to keep their hands clean is to gently file them. Eliminating the “rough corners and edges,” Krant points out, “makes [the nails] the strongest and also easiest to clean, and to use with protective gloves.”

Now Is the Time to Stop Biting Your Nails

Nail-biting can be a tough habit to break, but if there ever was a time to kick it, it’s now. Dr. Purvi Parikh, an infectious disease specialist at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, told The Cut that putting the bacteria and viruses collecting underneath your nails into your mouth is “the easiest way you can contract any infection.”

Illustration – Shutterstock | Fotyma

She notes that CCP virus is far from the only thing that circulates in the winter and early spring. “There are so many infections going around this time of year, from bacterial to viral to the flu,” Dr. Parikh says, adding, “given that we now have this coronavirus, there’s even more reason not to bite your nails.”

While keeping nails short, keeping them away from your mouth, and proper handwashing, including under the nails around the cuticles and nail bed, aren’t guaranteed to keep you from contracting the CCP virus, they are one of your first lines of defense.

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Author: Robert Jay Watson

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