If warmer temps find you eager to scrap the socks and strap on sandals, perhaps a pedicure is in your plans. Before you step foot in that salon, UR Medicine infection prevention specialist Ann Marie Pettis offers advice for keeping your feet happy and healthy.
A spa pedicure is not risk-free. That pampering harbors potential for exposure to fungi and blood-borne pathogens, such as hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. This is because there’s a slight risk of a small amount of bleeding if pedicurists use instruments too aggressively and then don’t sanitize them adequately. Other common germs that might be found at a spa are Staph aureus, commonly found on the skin of people who are healthy, and Pseudomonas, typically found in water.
The greatest risks come from the pedicure instruments and the foot bath. If you get a pedicure when you have a rash, cut, or even bug bites, you could make yourself more vulnerable to infection—and you also increase the chance of sharing an infection with the next customer. You should avoid waxing or shaving your legs for at least 24 hours before your treatment, since doing so can create tiny skin abrasions, opening you up to the possibility of infection.
Here are some pointers for picking a pedicure spa:
- Come in first. Try to be the first customer of the day. A spa is likely to be cleanest before all the foot traffic tromps through.
- Come clean. Take a look around and ask about the spa’s sanitation practices before you kick off your shoes and socks. Ask how they disinfect the instruments and foot bath between each customer. Spas are required to meet sanitary standards set by the Department of Health, but this is a tall order, with so many spas in operation. You’re wise to ask for assurance of their cleanliness. If you're diabetic, you’re at increased risk for infection as well as serious complications if an infection does occur. Be particularly cautious in evaluating the hygienic conditions of your go-to spa.
- Come equipped. Consider bringing your own instruments. Some spas encourage this and will store them for your next visit. Not sharing instruments definitely decreases the risk of exposure to anyone else’s germs. And speaking of tools, your pedicurist should never trim any callous on your feet with a razor. Instead, they should carefully use a pumice stone to avoid abrasions or bleeding.
Already had your pedicure and worried that you may have picked something up? Keep an eye out for redness, tenderness, or rash in the area. If any of these pop up post-pedicure, consider contacting your health care provider.
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Ann Marie Pettis directs Infection Prevention at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital, Golisano Children’s Hospital, and Highland Hospital. An infection preventionist with more than 30 years’ experience, she’s published articles in peer-reviewed journals and trade publications, and lectures locally, nationally, and internationally.