All our usual grooming habits are in flux. We might have more time to pamper ourselves than we did before coronavirus confined us to our homes, but fewer people get to see the results. Not to mention, given what’s going on in the world, few people care right now if your hair is getting long or if you’ve given up shaving and showering every day. But some of our grooming habits aren’t just about keeping up appearances — they’re actually for our own good. Keeping our nails clean is one of them, and it’s important for way more than just coronavirus prevention.
Case in point: The area beneath your fingernails, where the nail meets the skin, is the perfect little hangout for dirt and bacteria. Whatever germs you don’t want on your hands could easily be living under your nails, and can be challenging to remove with regular hand washing. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to scrub beneath your nails with a nail brush every single time you wash your hands. Of course, it would be possible to contract coronavirus if it managed to get under your fingernails and into contact with your nose or mouth, but there are plenty of other conditions you probably want to avoid as well.
According to the CDC, there are certain infections and diseases that are primarily contracted because of unclean fingernails — the most common worm infection in the U.S. is one of them. Pinworms, which are staple-sized white worms that can live in your rectum, are regularly spread from fingernail-to-mouth contact. I’m so sorry to tell you this, but children and the people who care for them have a 50 percent chance of catching pinworms. There’s a decent chance you have pinworms right now and don’t know it: They’re relatively harmless, with the most common symptom simply being itchiness, but obviously, the mere concept is horrifying.
The best way to avoid pinworms, in addition to washing your hands well and avoiding touching butts or fecal matter, is to keep your nails short. This is especially true if you’re a nailbiter, providing a direct transfer of whatever is under your nails into your immune system. Quitting that kind of bad habit is easier said than done, but trimming your nails short might help stop you from biting.
Even if you don’t bite your nails, though, it’s still a good idea to keep them short, as it makes keeping your hands completely clean easier.
So how often should you clip your nails?
There’s no official consensus, but it depends on how fast your nails grow. For most people, once every week or two should do. However often you feel is necessary, be careful not to cut them so short that you accidentally break the skin. This will only put you at a greater risk of infection around the nail itself. Same goes for biting or cutting your cuticles or pulling off hangnails.
When you trim your nails, the Mayo Clinic recommends cutting them straight across, and then carefully rounding the corners with either the trimmers or a nail file. Otherwise, you might be left with sharp corners that could scratch yourself or someone else.
If you really want to keep them long and care about hygiene, you’ll just have to take extra precautions to keep them clean. Maybe scrub your hands for two “Happy Birthdays” instead of one. You probably won’t get coronavirus because you have a set of claws, but you very well could get worms in your butt.
Beauty is pain, right?